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ESPN Article On Beasely And Edu


Chowda

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Reads good, will read it more later,

Here it is here:

This article appears in the Dec. 28 issue of ESPN The Magazine. The writer, Luke Cyphers, contributes to an Insider blog about U.S. Soccer that you can find here.

There is the dream of Europe: Thousands of fans line the streets of Glasgow, Scotland, cheering wildly as the team bus makes its way to Ibrox Stadium. In the stands, 30,000 Rangers supporters are waiting, giddy with appreciation as the players make their triumphant stroll around the field. In the middle of it all, two American stars wave the U.S. flags that some folks in the crowd just handed to them, as if the Scottish Premier League championship they've just helped deliver were as important as the liberation of Paris.

Then again, there is the reality of Europe: It's Christmastime, and Ibrox is filled for Rangers vs. Celtic, one of the fiercest rivalries in all of sports, so intense and profitable that it's known as the Old Firm. But the home team just lost, and those Rangers fans are angry. "Disgraceful," they're saying. "Absolute shite." As for the two Americans? They could do nothing about it. Because they're injured, or had been injured and lost their starting spot. Or they're not injured but aren't training well. Or they are training well, but ... who the hell knows? Bottom line, they're not playing. And the longer they don't play, the more they see that other dream -- the one about playing for the U.S. in the 2010 World Cup -- slowly slipping away.

This, right now, is the world of DaMarcus Beasley and Maurice Edu and, at various times, of nearly every other American who has played soccer for a European club. Best of times. Worst of times. A tale of two continents.

Beasley and Edu are two of the most talented players America has produced. A little more than a year ago, they exemplified the dream: Show talent in the States and earn a chance to prove yourself against the world's best while soaking up their techniques, their discipline, their passion and their money. Then, with those lessons well learned, reap the benefits in international matches by showing a snickering planet that America can play with anyone. Sometimes the dream comes true, as it did last summer, when a squad of Euro-toughened Yanks shocked Spain, then the world's top team, in the Confederations Cup semifinals.

The reality, though, is often something else. There's lousy weather, a prying press and a sun that sets by 4 p.m. There are injuries and, in some leagues, such as Scotland's, a style of play that all but guarantees them. There are cash-strapped front offices and coaches who don't care who you were back home. "That's just how it is in Europe," says Beasley, the 27-year-old midfielder on his third team abroad, after stints with PSV Eindhoven in Holland and Manchester City in the English Premier League. "Sometimes you're just out of favor."

Though he's probably best known for his dynamic play alongside Landon Donovan in the 2002 World Cup, Beasley has enjoyed one of the most successful European club careers of any U.S. field player to date. No American has matched his four career goals in Champions League games. But that stat elicits a collective "So what?" abroad. "Managers in Europe don't say anything," Beasley says. This is not a complaint, just a fact. While U.S. coach Bob Bradley communicates often with his players, sometimes in great detail and always in private, that's rarely the case overseas. "They won't tell you what you need to do to get back on the field," Beasley says. "You train and train, and even if you train well, it may not matter."

Mo Johnston, a former Rangers and Scottish national team player who coached Edu at Toronto FC in 2007, says it's a matter of economics and competition as much as tradition. "There are just better players," Johnston says. Many Euro teams carry a dozen players who are each making at least the $2.3 million salary cap of entire MLS rosters. And managers oversee not just an 18-man game-day lineup but developmental squads, too. "The coaches don't talk to you as much -- because there isn't the time," Johnston says. "And everybody, even the best players, hit bumps in the road. You just get on with it."

Two years of injuries have made that difficult for Beasley. He started with a bang after coming to Scotland in 2007, scoring four goals in 19 games and dominating a Champions League match against Lyon. But a PCL tear robbed him of most of the 2007-08 season and left him benched for three-quarters of the 2008-09 campaign. When he finally won back a starting spot as a wing, last spring, he was felled first by a minor knee injury and then by a kick in the ribs. Those last two knocks put him back on the bench and started a downward spiral on the U.S. team. In group play at the Confederations Cup, a simple pass skipped under Beasley's foot, leading to a Robinho breakaway in a 3-0 loss to Brazil. He hasn't played for the Yanks since. "People think I'm old," he says. "But I know I can play at a high level. I know I can win my position back."

"Managers in Europe won't tell you what you need to do to get back on the field. You train and train, and even if you train well, it may not matter."

Despite his hardships, Beasley has come to love Glasgow, the club and its fans. "They have tattoos of players' faces," he says. "It's crazy." But it's more than that. "It really is like a family." Last year, when Beasley's family came to visit, locals arranged a tour of St. Andrews for DaMarcus' golf-loving dad, Henry. And the younger Beasley, who's a diamond connoisseur, recently partnered with a Glasgow jeweler and launched his own jewelry line.

On the pitch, though, Beasley has seen mostly lumps of coal. He showed well in one half of play against St. Mirren in early November, running the field like the old days and setting up a goal. Then he was back on the bench. "It feels like I've played eight games in the last 100," he laments. "I want to play in the World Cup, and for that to happen, I have to play regularly. If not here, then someplace else." (He may get his wish during the January transfer window, when the cash-strapped Rangers could let him out of the remaining six months of his contract in exchange for not having to pay him.)

At least Beasley has had company in his misery. Edu, who's 23, joined Rangers in August 2008 with an impressive résumé: an NCAA championship and All-America honors at Maryland, the No. 1 spot in the MLS draft and the 2007 Rookie of the Year award for Toronto FC. But Rangers manager Walter Smith doesn't like to rush rookies, so Edu sat alongside his American friend. He waited seven months for his chance in central midfield, never complaining (except about the soggy weather), and heeded Beasley's advice to work hard every day so that he'd be ready when his name was called.

Edu's chance came thanks to a series of bizarre events. Rangers captain Barry Ferguson, selected for the Scottish national team, got stinking drunk, stayed out all night and was benched for a World Cup qualifier, then made an obscene gesture to TV cameras as he sat with the reserves. His club suspended him, creating an opening for Edu. The fast, physical midfielder seized it, scoring a game-winning goal in his first subsequent start and showing why the club paid a nearly $5 million transfer fee to get him. "The game action is back and forth over here," says Edu, a box-to-box player who can break up the attack on one end and score goals on the other. Those skills played a vital role in Rangers late-season run to its first SPL title in four years.

But just as Edu's form peaked, he took a hard hit in the first half of the final regular-season match. He jumped back up, limped around for a bit, then decided to stay on the field. He played the rest of the match, "just going on adrenaline," and proudly waved the American flag a fan gave him when Rangers made it back to Ibrox for the victory celebration. "That was the best day," he says, "and the worst." Because it was the last time he'd see the field in 2009. The following week he learned the true extent of his injury: an LCL tear in his left knee, requiring surgery and a long rehab.

Edu's disappointment has continued through a rocky recovery that saw him miss a series of hoped-for return dates: September for Champions League matches, October for World Cup qualifiers. He didn't make it back to the practice field until late November. "Maybe I was naïve to think I could get back so fast," he says. He was also naïve about the culture of European soccer. While Edu knew the fans would be demanding, he wasn't prepared for the press to gossip about his personal life. Stories have appeared about his being lovelorn and looking for Ms. Right. He's surprised that anyone's interested: "My reaction is, Why?" But he answers his own question. "It's more like what NBA or NFL players deal with in the States. In the newspapers here, most of the space is filled with football. Fans really care."

That's one reason Edu is a Twitter fiend. But that, too, created problems. After a Champions League loss at Ibrox on Oct. 20, he posted, "Not sure what hurt more: result last nite or being racially abused by couple of r own fans as I'm getting in my car ... " The resulting media hubbub blindsided the club, which has tried in recent years to escape its legacy of anti-Catholic bigotry. Edu didn't want to comment on the incident, which is under investigation, but he would probably like to take that post back.

"In Europe, you're either fighting for a championship or fighting off relegation. Every game means something."

If it's any consolation, Beasley and Edu aren't alone in their education. Freddy Adu has appeared in just three club matches in Portugal this year. Jozy Altidore languished last season in Spain and for the first part of this season before getting a run of starts with England's Hull City. Oguchi Onyewu starred with the Belgian champs, Standard Liège, last season, but after making the jump to Italian giant AC Milan, he played just one-half of a match before a knee injury during a World Cup qualifier killed most of his season. Even established starters like Benny Feilhaber and Tim Howard have had trying times, falling out of favor after injuries or dips in performance. "I think sometimes American players go over there too young," Johnston says. "They might be better off playing 90 minutes a game in MLS for a few more years."

So for guys like Beasley and Edu, whose bad luck and hard knocks might cost them a chance at a World Cup spot, is Europe really worth it? Beasley, who starred for the Chicago Fire early in the decade, says yes. "In MLS, you can have a losing season and still win the Cup," he says. "In European leagues, you're either fighting for a championship or fighting off relegation. Every game means something."

Bob Thomas/Getty ImagesRangers supporters are among the most pasionate in Europe, something Edu and Beasley have learned firsthand.

Claudio Reyna, the retired U.S. captain and the first American to play for Rangers, agrees. "In Europe, there's not a day you can take off," he says. "You learn that there are guys on your club who may smile and be friendly, but then they'll kick you in training sessions."

You don't necessarily kick back, but you have to fight through. That's the lesson of Clint Dempsey. Twice, in 2007 and 2008, he helped Fulham avoid relegation from the Premiership, and twice he was rewarded with a demotion from his starting role. But he was ornery enough to keep winning back the job. "Being an American in Europe, you can't just be as good as another player," he says. "You have to be better." After leading the U.S. in scoring at the Confederations Cup, Dempsey, with five goals in 15 EPL games, is on pace for his most prolific Euro season yet, and he's now a Fulham fan favorite.

Determination like Dempsey's helps keep Beasley and Edu motivated through the rough patches. That, and the chance to play in the World Cup. "Anything can change," Beasley says. "Look at David Beckham. He wasn't playing, he fell out of favor, but he came back, and now he might get another shot with England. Not that I'm David Beckham, but it happens."

And it just might be happening again. In 30 minutes of action against Falkirk in early December, Beasley looked strong, attacking with speed and drawing a foul in the box that led to a penalty-kick goal in a 3-1 victory. Meanwhile, Edu is targeting the Jan. 3 Old Firm match at Celtic Park for his return.

If Beasley and Edu continue to fight their way back, stories like theirs -- and those of their other U.S. teammates -- will inspire more Yanks to take their games overseas and face the world's best. And as more of them get a shot in Europe, the expectations, and the obstacles, are sure to get bigger. Along with the dreams.

Luke Cyphers is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine. He contributes to an Insider blog about U.S. Soccer that you can find here.

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we're not fucking morons Boab...we can click our left mouse button and read the article from the site.

You're right, most folk aren't morons on RM excluding your 'good' yourself of course (tu)

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I missed this, thanks for posting (tu)

Beasley has played himself back into contention with both Rangers and the national team, and it's good to see he's kept pragmatic about the whole situation, which would have been hard on any player.

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we're not fucking morons Boab...we can click our left mouse button and read the article from the site.

I like what Boab does. Haud yer weeshed nobby.

well i dont......Opinions are all different at the end of the day.

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we're not fucking morons Boab...we can click our left mouse button and read the article from the site.

I like what Boab does. Haud yer weeshed nobby.

well i dont......Opinions are all different at the end of the day.

boabs a threadinator, hes like a spirit fae scrooge, showing the way it could be done, should be done or should have been done, boaby owns your thread :blush:<cr>

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Liked the article. I think -- in American terms anyway -- delivers the message that it's 24/7 here and in the rest of the civilized world as far as Football is concerned. Just that the OF are just that wee bit more 'serious'.

America (or Canada) does not, and will not ever, ever get it.

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The resulting media hubbub blindsided the club, which has tried in recent years to escape its legacy of anti-Catholic bigotry

Had to get a dig in somewhere. :rolleyes:

The author can go and take a fuck to himself.

I'd suggest that a lot of the research this author did was online through media sources. I wouldn't castigate him for that kind of error, I'm sure a lot of the media on the internet he would have used would have told him exactly that.

Like BP9 said, it just shows how many Americans don't understand football, which after all is to be expected. If I were to write an article about a footballer based in America then I might get some of the nuances wrong...

Nice little article. I'd love it if EDU/DMB could convince some more of his team mates to come over to Rangers.

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The resulting media hubbub blindsided the club, which has tried in recent years to escape its legacy of anti-Catholic bigotry

Had to get a dig in somewhere. :rolleyes:

The author can go and take a fuck to himself.

I'd suggest that a lot of the research this author did was online through media sources. I wouldn't castigate him for that kind of error, I'm sure a lot of the media on the internet he would have used would have told him exactly that.

Like BP9 said, it just shows how many Americans don't understand football, which after all is to be expected. If I were to write an article about a footballer based in America then I might get some of the nuances wrong...

Nice little article. I'd love it if EDU/DMB could convince some more of his team mates to come over to Rangers.

Thats 3 decent players we have had from there - I lived there for 2 years and travelled there for 15 - they dont get football at all on the level we do BUT the amount of players is huge at grassroots level (men and women). I used to stay just outside Washington DC and as you drove about at weekends you would see parks and parks of kids playing 'soccer' but it just does not seem to transfer into a senior game from a mass spectator level - although its getting bettter. Also strikes me that if we keep attracting players from there then that increases our exposure over there and its a huge market for players, merchandise tours etc. and in some ways having ESPN (current deal is shite) carrying some of our games then that is no bad thing long term.

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