What did our beloved Claret and Cobalt do the evening of March, 10th? They did what they trained for. They did what they most wanted. They did what they are capable of. They “came to score” (The Aggrolites).
How about the USA, right? The men's national team with that win over Mexico — and, much closer to home (well — sort of. You know what I mean.), we saw Kyle Beckerman as one of the players holding it all together. Now, I'm not often prone to hyperbole (or should I say I'm never hyperbolic, not once, not never), but I think it's safe to say that our captain was very, very good for his nation.
Not everyone agreed, of course. It's strange to me that Kyle Beckerman is sometimes such a polarizing figure for the US men's national team. Perhaps it is the dreadlocks, I sometimes wonder. I am more inclined to think that his is a position of nuance, and in a midfield that underperforms, it becomes exceedingly easy to simply pinpoint his play as lacking. It ignores the reality of things, of course, but when a player isn't making huge darting runs, scoring goals, or making last-gasp diving saves, some will criticize the player. I'm speaking of nobody in particular, mind, but reading mentions of "Beckerman" on Twitter mid-match last night was a dangerous thing for one's sanity.
But 25 of 30 passes — the only player to complete more passes was Edgar Castillo — three tackles won for three tried, and three interceptions would seem to indicate that he was better than perhaps some believed. In a squad that couldn't string together more than a few passes, he was connecting with aplomb. He didn't try audacious lobs or hopeful (hopeless?) long passes — much to his credit. His role is to connect and to cover defensively. Further, late in the match, he dropped deep into a central defender spot. While not his natural position, he looked passable there, though the side did lose some ability to play out of the back as a result.
It was particularly interesting to watch Kyle play in the same basic position but with a different role, too. Although the US didn't do enough in possession, we can still derive a few things.
1. Beckerman's a central player first and foremost. We've seen him played as part of a two-man defensive shield before, but the central role is where he thrives. The midfield often pivots around his defensive movement, which is among the best in MLS and — dare I say it — something he could transfer to any of the top leagues in the world. Not that I'd like him to leave, mind, but he possesses that ineffable quality holding midfielders need to succeed.
2. Kyle's a passing player with excellent concentration. Again, this is hardly a surprise, is it? We see this week-in, week-out in Claret and Cobalt from the captain. Can you imagine our squad without him? I can, but I don't love it.
3. The USMNT uses Beckerman in a less adventurous position than we do — at least generally. Still, it was his pass just outside the attacking third out to Brek Shea that triggered the goal, and that's always very nice to see. Of course, most of the time, we saw our captain in the defensive half alongside, well, nearly everybody. Whether this was a tactical decision or just a lack of ability for the Americans, I don't know. That's a big question, and I'm not prepared to answer it.
Anyhow, there's all that. Let's all give him a round of applause and whatnot. I don't suspect he'll play on Saturday, given that we play on Tuesday and he'll be a bit tired from the travel and the 90 minutes of non-stop defensive action — but that's fine. He earned it.