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REGGIE HAYES: World Cup qualifying failure still stings DaMarcus Beasley

Professional soccer player DaMarcus Beasley talks with youngsters at his camp Tuesday at The Plex North. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
DaMarcus Beasley shares a laugh with campers at his soccer camp Tuesday at The Plex North. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
DaMarcus Beasley answers questions from young players at his soccer camp Tuesday at The Plex North. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
DaMarcus Beasley, right, helps with a drill during his camp Tuesday at The Plex North. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)

We’re heading toward three months since the infamous loss and DaMarcus Beasley’s feelings remains raw.

The United States men’s national soccer team lost to Trinidad and Tobago when it needed at least a draw and failed to qualify for the World Cup.

In soccer terms, it was a national disaster. In personal terms, it ended Fort Wayne native Beasley’s bid to be the first U.S. men’s player to play on five World Cup teams. He was already the first man to play on four.

Beasley, 35, was part of the team, although he didn’t play, when the U.S. lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago in a World Cup qualifier Oct. 10 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

“That locker room you could imagine, at first it was like you could hear a pin drop,” Beasley said during a break while visiting his Fort Wayne United Futbol Club holiday camp Tuesday at The Plex North. “People were crying, upset, mad, most everything you could think of. It’s still a tough pill to swallow.”

“The fact we aren’t going to the World Cup is something I never dreamed of, I never thought it could happen. But now it’s a reality check.”

The reality for Beasley, one of the most successful athletes to ever come out of Fort Wayne, is that soccer and life goes on. He expects to return to Major League Soccer next season, whether with Houston, where he has played the last three seasons, or another team. But his national team run is over.

This was not the way Beasley wanted his U.S. career to end. He has been a special player, adjusting his game as he went from a precocious teen to a cerebral veteran. Most thought his national team days were over after the last World Cup, but he proved his value to coach Bruce Arena and was part of the World Cup plans.

“To me, it’s still devastating,” Beasley said. “I can’t believe we’re not going to be part of a World Cup and, for me, personally, not going to my fifth. I had a great time representing my country for all the years I did. To end it like that was tough.”

Beasley’s next step is to keep rolling with his professional career. He is currently a free agent, but feels he still has plenty of gas in his tank. Over the course of his career, he has played in soccer locales around the world. He spent a few seasons in Mexico prior to signing with Houston and settling in the city he calls home. He also played in Netherlands, England, Scotland and Germany.

He is open to returning to Houston if a deal is reached.

“I still want to play,” Beasley said. “I’ve been in contract negotiations and we’ll see how that goes, where I end up. I’m excited for another season. I feel like I have a lot to give and I’ve gotten feedback from coaches that they want me to come back.”

I asked Beasley if he’s surprised to still be eager and capable of playing at a high level as he heads toward his 36th birthday this May.

“Yes and no,” he said. “Yes, because playing at 35 at this level, with the amount of games I’ve played, I’ve surprised myself that I can still do it, that my body has held up.”

“And, no, because I put in the work to keep my body in good shape and to make sure I’m fit and ready to play these games and play at a high level.”

Beasley said he still tries to learn more about the game, even though he has played with and against the best players in the world. He pointed to a group of youngsters, elementary age, and said he watches them to see if what they do might even spark a new way for him to look at the game.

“I didn’t have things like this to go to when I was their age,” he said. “You never stop learning. Even though I’m in my 19th season, I’m still learning, I’m still a student of the game. I always want to be knowledgeable about the game and understand the game. It’s one of my biggest strengths.”

There will be a time when Beasley reaches the finish line, when his playing days are over. That time isn’t now.

Because he has more ahead, he won’t spend time looking back, reminiscing about his glory days or the four national teams he joined in World Cup competition.

The competitor in him remains too invested in the here and now.

“The part that sticks in my mind is that we lost (in October),” Beasley said. “It’s still fresh to me. When I retire, whenever I do, I’ll have time to reflect on the highs and the good times. Right now is definitely a low, and it’s still there a little bit.”

Not long after he said that, Beasley was off among the campers, showing them a few skills, talking to them, answering questions. Beasley was back in the business of soccer in the moment, a love that never gets old.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.

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