Friday, May 6, 2005
It's been an up and down season for YA's this year, with a couple of guys not getting the playing time they had hoped, and a couple more throwing in the towel and heading back to MLS.

But if you want to see how to succeed in Europe, look no further than the sleepy little town of Eindhoven in the Netherlands and look for a guy named DaMarcus Beasley, who despite his sometimes limited playing time, has managed to put in a stellar first European season.

For anyone keeping score that's Beasley: 1 - for having established himself internationally in an amazing first year in Europe, Other US Hopefuls/Stars: 0.

Unfortunately, he's probably out for the rest of the season after receiving a crushing blow from FC Twente defender Daniel Majstorovic, but seeing Beasley bounce back after being hacked down by bigger guys his whole career, don't expect him to be out for long.

As bad as it looked on replay, Beasley might even be able to play in the Amstel Cup final against Willem II later on this month.

When Beasley made the move to Europe last summer to step into Arjen Robben's shoes, few, if any, would have expected the former Chicago Fire star to have the type of season he has had so far.

Nonetheless, he has not established himself as a starter on a the very young PSV team, and could arguably be insisting on more playing time.

But you just knew that an injury was the only way Beasley was going finish his season early.

It wasn't going to be because he wasn't getting enough playing time. Or that he wasn't getting along with the coach. Or that his teammates didn't like him.

And it certainly wasn't going to be because he wasn't enjoying himself.

What Bruce Arena said a while back about Beasley's attitude, that if you told him there was a soccer game to be played, he'd say, "What? Let's play two!", is truly representative of why he has had such a successful season - one of the best in recent memory for an American in Europe.

Despite never having firmly established himself in the first eleven, Beasley still managed to lead his side in scoring for their Champions League campaign until Cocu scored twice against AC Milan as PSV's treble hopes were ended.

In addition, he has been a much used substitute who has come off the bench to score some important goals - including the last minute equalizer against Feyenoord in the domestic cup semifinal that PSV would go on to win in penalties.

Of course, this kind of success is due mostly to the fact that Hiddink and PSV don't play with 10 players and one goalkeeper, but 13 or 14 guys who are expected to be able to contribute on any given night.

It's clear that Hiddink is more than happy with Beasley, having started him in the first leg against AC Milan last week after being first off the bench in both quarterfinal games against Lyon.

In the away leg in Lyon, he was the only substitute in a tightly contested match despite not having been told to start warming up to begin the second half - something which drew the ire of the Dutch manager, though obviously not enough to keep him from coming in.

"Coach got kind of upset that I wasn't ready. Because usually I do go in every game and he usually tells you if you're gonna go in or not, but he didn't tell me so I figured I was just going to rest," Beasley recounted after the game.

"Next thing I know, [Hiddink] says, 'Beas go in for [Farfán]'...I wasn't even warm, I wasn't nothing at that time," he recalled, laughing a little bit at the situation he had put himself in.

He still came in and went on to give a great 25 minutes, helping PSV push for the vital away goal which they got just eight minutes after his introduction.

Even though he hasn't become a regular starter for his Eindhoven club, it's hard to imagine the experience he has gained since his summer transfer could have been equaled by staying in MLS.

Playing alongside such rising stars as Brazil's Alex and Peru's Jefferson Farfán as well as Dutch national team regulars Mark Van Bommel and Phillip Cocu can only make you a better player on the field, and with experience like that maybe even more importantly off the field.

"If you need anything you can always go talk to Cocu, but at the same time on the field he knows what to do and he coaches you," the beaming Hoosier comments. "[Cocu]'s our second captain and he's very worthy of that. You know, him and Van Bommel are definitely two guys you can look up to as a young player."

The Oranje legend is full of praise for the young American.

"Not a lot of Americans are playing in Europe and he got the chance and he's doing very well. He's almost playing every game, not always as a starter, but always coming in and has scored some very important goals for the team," explains Cocu.

"His quality is very important for our team and he's got a lot of character. He's always very positive and he gives everything for the team so I think, not only I, but all the team is very happy with DMB."

I've often heard people criticize Beasley's skills often comparing him to Landon Donovan as they have been playing together for almost 10 years, with Beasley coming out short every time.

It always reminds me what people used to say about Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics: He can't run and he can't jump, yet there he was year after year with his Celtics team competing for the championship.

That's not to say DaMarcus is to PSV what Larry Bird was to the Celtics, but you always hear the same sort of things directed at the diminutive winger.

He can't cross and he's got a weak shot. He most certainly can't dribble.

But there he is, the leading scorer for PSV in Champions League competitions mostly as a substitute while taking a large number of their corner and free kicks. (Let's not forget the hammer he dropped on South Korea a few years back in the Gold Cup.)

And the man Beasley refers to as PSV's second captain, Cocu, would wholeheartedly disagree with the criticisms as well.

"I think he's technically a very good player and has a lot of speed," says the World Cup veteran.

"The first 20 meters he's so fast. But you know he's got good anticipation. I like to play with him together because when I've got the ball in midfield, he's always anticipating. He sees when I've got some space and he's always looking for a deep ball."

Wait a minute, DaMarcus is fast???

That's always been the big question, who's faster: LD or Beas? But DaMarcus put an end to any speculation right there after the game in Lyon.

"Me! Everybody asks me that question, he knows that I'm faster than him," he says jokingly.

What about a foot race between the other US speedster, Frankie Hejduk?

"I would say [I'm faster]. Frankie's just a workhorse. He goes up and down the field all the time. Over 90 minutes, he'd probably beat me by a couple blocks."

While there are a few other players in the US National team pool that may be more skilled than Beasley, none would rate higher in talent were you to follow the legendary Belgian Jacques Brel's definition that, "Talent actually doesn't exist. Talent is the desire to do something."

If Nike were still running those Fast People Support Group commercials, well, I guess then they would finally have a reason to go after the kid some people say is our best player.

At the very least, the one with the most desire.

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