Family comes first. So DaMarcus Beasley is retiring from the U.S. national team, bringing the curtain down on a storied 14-year international career that saw him collect 121 caps and make American history.
Last summer Beasley became the first U.S. player to take the field in four World Cups. Then he returned to MLS after a decade in Europe and Mexico to sign for the Dynamo as a Designated Player.
Now the 32-year-old wants to spend more time with his daughter, Lia, who was born in March. He spoke with HoustonDynamo.com a day after revealing the news on Instagram.
“It’s been a long time with the national team and I have a family now, my daughter’s enjoying her first Christmas, she’s nine months. So spending time with her I felt at this point was more important. For me, always, family comes first,” he said.
The decision will allow him to focus on club soccer with the Dynamo in 2015 as the team enters a new era under just-appointed head coach Owen Coyle. “I’ve already heard good things about him so I’m looking forward to seeing what he brings to Houston,” Beasley said.
He made ten starts for the Dynamo in 2014 and missed four games through injury. He is hopeful that ending his international stint will help his body cope with the rigors of MLS. “That was another thing, travel and a lot of games. I’m not getting any younger so that always takes a toll,” he said.
“There’s a lot of factors going into it but the biggest one is my daughter, that’s the main thing for me. Obviously I’m looking forward to the season with Houston, not having to travel those extra games and hopefully keeping my body at a good level for the whole season.”
Beasley was still in head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s future plans and was named on the U.S. roster as recently as last month when the team ended their 2014 campaign with games against Colombia and Ireland.
What would prove his final appearance came against Colombia in London at Craven Cottage, the home of Fulham. He replaced Greg Garza for the last 20 minutes of a 2-1 loss. The match came nearly 14 years after he earned his first senior U.S. cap in a friendly against China on January 27, 2001.
“Jurgen and I had a good long talk and he understood. He was shocked that I told him I was going to retire but he understood,” said Beasley. “I was tempted to keep going of course, especially when Jurgen said I was in his plans for 2015. At the same time, when I called Jurgen my mind was made up. I was ready to start another chapter in my life, to spend more time with my family. He respected that.”
Beasley said he considered ending his spell with the national team after the U.S. lost to Belgium in the World Cup. “I started thinking about it before the last game against Colombia. Jurgen asked me to come in and of course I wasn’t going to say no. I thought about it actually after the World Cup, that it would be my last game. But I still felt like I had something to give, I wanted to keep going,” he said. “But obviously being around my daughter more and more, I want to be there when she has her first everything.”
The Indiana native was a trailblazer for Americans in Europe, moving from the Chicago Fire to Dutch club PSV Eindhoven in 2004 and becoming the first of his countrymen to play in a UEFA Champions League semi-final. He also featured for Rangers, Hannover, Manchester City and Puebla.
Beasley built a stellar resume with the national team: showing consistent excellence to reach four World Cups; losing his place after 2010 then enjoying a late-career renaissance by switching from left wing to left back; and demonstrating his leadership qualities by captaining the U.S. to glory in the 2013 Gold Cup.
Only four men — Cobi Jones, Landon Donovan, Jeff Agoos and Marcelo Balboa — have collected more U.S. caps, and Beasley is also in the all-time top ten in goals and assists.
His perfectionist instincts make him wonder if he could have achieved even more. “You’re always critical of yourself, thinking you could do more or maybe look at one game where you could have made an extra pass or score an extra goal, something like that. These are criticisms on my part, not something folks or media are saying,” he said.
Mainly, though, he is ready to reflect on his international career with pride and nostalgia. “I gave everything I could for the national team, I’m very proud of what I accomplished,” he said.
“Now that part of my career is done I can look back and sit down and enjoy some of the moments that I had. Look at some video, some old tapes, old pictures, and I can really see what I did in my 14 years as a US men’s team national player. Now I can reflect on it and understand what myself and a lot of other guys did.
He won’t be on the field for the next U.S. game, against Chile on January 28, and that will be a strange feeling for fans and Beasley alike. But he’ll still be backing the team with the energy that characterized his performances. “I enjoyed the ride and I’m looking forward to watching my first game as a fan,” he said.
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.