This time last year DaMarcus Beasley was preparing to leave Manchester City, where he had completed a season on loan, partly because there was no manager in place at Eastlands. A year on, City are in the same position. But for Beasley the intervening time has been all change.
Having joined Rangers because of the Scottish club's involvement in the Champions League, Beasley – now emerging as one of the most influential members of a United States side that will meet England at Wembley tomorrow – was enjoying that very challenge in a group stage match at VfB Stuttgart when he sustained an injury to his right knee that required an operation and kept him out of action for five months.
In that time he had to sit and watch his team-mates set up a bid for four trophies that eventually yielded two – while they lost their Uefa Cup final at the City of Manchester Stadium and saw Celtic beat them to the SPL title, they secured a double on Saturday when they added the Scottish Cup to the CIS Insurance Cup. And Beasley was at last able to influence the action as he marked his first start since November by scoring a goal in the 3-2 win over Queen of the South. "To score, and to be on the winning side, made it quite a day," Beasley said. "And it was my birthday too."
As he speaks, Beasley relaxes in a large, warm hotel reception room near St Albans, where the US players are based. Outside the window, cows in a nearby field mooch towards the relative shelter of a row of sycamores. It is an opportunity for this 26-year-old from Fort Wayne, Indiana to recollect his career in relative tranquillity. Having scored at Hampden on Saturday, he is keen to register a goal at that other great national stadium south of the border. And it would be even more memorable for him if that goal were to find its way past his friend and former Manchester City colleague Joe Hart, the 21-year-old who has been called into Fabio Capello's squad. While Beasley refers to his manager at Ibrox, Walter Smith, as "the gaffer", there is a more relaxed approach within the US camp – Bob Bradley, the coach installed after a disappointing showing at the 2006 World Cup, is someone he refers to as "Bob".
One of the things "Bob" is seeking from Beasley is that he steps up to become one of the leaders of the team following the exit of senior players such as Brian McBride and Claudio Reyna. And although he believes his knee is still only "85 to 90 per cent" recovered, Beasley is confident that a US team which established its international credentials by reaching the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup can get itself in shape for the forthcoming qualification tournament for the 2010 finals. The memory of the 2002 campaign, where the US were narrowly beaten by Germany after defeating Portugal 3-2 in their first match, is the highlight so far for Beasley of an international career which has yielded 68 caps and 15 goals.
"That's when people started noticing us, after that World Cup," he says. "Teams were no longer thinking they could put on some sandals and beat us three or four nothing. We are getting better every year and our players are getting stronger. It is important we come together as a team over the next three weeks or so." Starting tomorrow.
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