Kyle Beckerman isn't going anywhere 

January, 20, 2012
01/20/12
10:11
AM ET

CARSON, Calif. -- No decision so far in Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. coaching tenure has generated as much surprise and discussion as his choice of Kyle Beckerman to start consistently in a defensive midfield role.

But for Klinsmann, the choice is simple: Beckerman fulfills the coach's vision of a classic, stay-at-home, No. 6 midfielder.

"We see in Kyle a guy who just purely plays his role," said Klinsmann, whose national team plays Venezuela in Phoenix on Saturday after a three-week training camp.

Beckerman has missed some practice time nursing a groin strain the past week, but he's firmly in Klinsmann's mix no matter how much he plays this weekend. The Real Salt Lake stalwart is an MLS All-Star respected for his tenacity and smarts who came up in the vaunted Bradenton Academy Class of 1999 with Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and Oguchi Onyewu. But the 29-year-old Beckerman never earned an international call-up under Bruce Arena and was mostly a B-teamer for Bob Bradley. A converted forward, he didn't have the bite or experience of Pablo Mastroeni in the 2006 cycle, nor the athleticism of box-to-box mids Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones in recent years.

That's why Klinsmann's use of Beckerman, who has started five of seven games under the coach, has puzzled several longtime observers of the national team, including one MLS coach who spoke to us on condition of anonymity.

"He's a great MLS player -- I'd love to have him on my team -- but I think that's his highest level," the coach said. "I don't think he's got the speed for the international level."

Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.

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