The U.S. men’s national soccer team has not had a home game on U.S. soil in three months, but that streak will come to an end when it hosts an international friendly against Belgium at FirstEnergy Stadium Wednesday night.
For veteran left back DeMarcus Beasley, the game is really a homecoming of sorts. The Fort Wayne, Indiana native is playing three hours away from his hometown and has 16 family members -- including his parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins -- coming to Cleveland for the game.
They will get to see him earn his 100th cap, meaning he has played in 100 games against international competition.
“It’s great,” said Beasley, who will become with the 13th player in U.S. men’s soccer history to earn 100 caps. “For me, playing this game, being so close to home, my family can see the game. They’re excited about it. I think they’re more excited about it than I am because I still have to go out there and play. At the same time, to be in this situation, to be able to get my 100th cap in front of the U.S.A. fans, in front of my family is a big thing for me, and I’m happy I did it on U.S.A. soil.
“I’m glad to be a part of the team. To me, it’s an honor. Whenever I represent the U.S.A., it’s a blessing.”
Beasley admitted feeling nervous while working up to the Belgium game, and said that at the time of his first cap, he never envisioned playing 99 more games for Team U.S.A.
“I’m not really a nervous guy when I go on the field,” Beasley said. “I just go out on the field and play, but at the same time, I think I’m putting more pressure on myself than anybody else. Everybody’s just like, ‘Relax. Play like usual.’ I just don’t want to make mistakes in my 100th game. I want to make sure it’s a memorable one. I want to make sure we win and get a memorable result.
“It’s been a great ride. It’s been a little bumpy in the middle, but I wouldn’t change anything for the world.”
Wednesday’s game is the first of two friendlies for Team U.S.A. this week, as it will take on Germany in Washington, D.C. on June 2. Then, they will continue with World Cup qualifying June 7-18 with contests against Jamaica (June 7 in Kingston, Jamaica), Panama (June 11 in Seattle) and Honduras (June 18 in Sandy, Utah).
Due to club team responsibilities, many members of Team U.S.A. have just recently reported for national team workouts.
“It is difficult, but every team has to deal with that,” said Clint Dempsey, who served as captain in two World Cup qualifiers earlier this year. “You just try to get the players in as soon as possible, try to work on as much as you can in training. The good news is that we have two games leading into the World Cup qualifiers. That’s the most important thing. We hit the ground running in those games.
“To be honest, (Coach Jurgen Klinsmann) just called me on the phone and said that he was thinking about giving me the captaincy for the two World Cup qualifiers, and I just told him that it was an honor. I’m ready for it and will do my best. I’ll try to lead the team in those two games. As far as being captain, we’ll see how it goes with the future, but it was good to be the captain for those two games and get two good results.”
The results Dempsey referred to were a 1-0 win over Costa Rica on March 22, and a 0-0 draw against Mexico in one of the most hostile environments in international soccer, Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
The team is looking to continue the momentum gained from those World Cup qualifiers and carry it into their friendlies against Belgium and Germany, both of whom are ahead of Team U.S.A. in the world rankings.
“We don’t look at friendlies as friendlies,” Beasley said. “We look at friendlies as a way to get better, get a good result, win the game and make our team get better and better and better, especially against a great team which Belgium has. They have so many good players, so it’s going to be a tough game, but if we stick to what we need to do and worry about ourselves, I think we’ll be okay.”