It was 3:30 am, and DaMarcus Beasley was sitting in front of his computer, trying to write. The four-time World Cup veteran was calling it quits on his time with the US national team, and he had to find the right words.
The result was a letter, not to celebrate his career – after all, it’s not over – or to talk about his achievements.
It was a thank-you posted on his Instagram account. There was no fanfare, media call or even a press release from US Soccer. It was for the people who had helped and followed him, letting them all know about a difficult decision: The decision for the Houston Dynamo defender to prioritize his family over his international career.
A new father, the 32-year-old veteran of four World Cups decided after the US friendly against Colombia in London in November 2014 that he wanted to put his 'home team,' so to speak, over his country. It’s a decision that players understandably agonize over, but one Beasley was sure about.
“Not everything’s about football,” Beasley told MLSsoccer.com. “As you get older, you realize there are things that are more important. For me, it didn’t make my decision easier, but it made me be at peace with it. I feel very comfortable with my decision.”
Beasley arrived in Houston after last year’s World Cup and seemed set on donning the red, white and blue for at least another year. He spoke about being in the mix for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann indicated that the veteran left back was still in his plans.
“I told the media I was probably going to stay on until the Gold Cup, if I was selected obviously, but I felt after the game against Colombia in London that that was it,” Beasley said. “People do say, 'When you know, you know.'”
What changed? Beasley’s home life. Three months before last summer’s World Cup, his first child, a daughter, was born. Knowing that there is so much more than what’s between the lines, Beasley put an emphasis on being there for the big moments in his daughter’s life.
“Being able to see my daughter walk for the first time and actually being there was important to me,” Beasley said. “When she did walk was when they were in January camp, and I would’ve missed it. Things like that, I felt that’s more important than my career.”
The announcement was the culmination of a 14-year journey for Beasley, one that had seen him earn 121 senior caps and help establish the US as a fixture in the American sporting landscape. He had first thought about international retirement at last summer’s World Cup in Brazil in the moments after the team’s emotional, extra-time loss to Belgium in the Round of 16.
“I sat down and took it in," Beasley said. "After we lost, I was dead tired. I couldn’t feel my legs. Chasing around the Belgians was a pretty tough task. But, yeah, in that moment, a part of me felt like that was the last time I would put on that shirt.
“After the game, I sat down and just laid on the grass and just wanted to take it all in. It was just a reflection of Brazil, teammates, the World Cup and how much we accomplished. But yeah, I soaked it in. I still have that shirt. That I won’t ever get rid of.”
Apart from his growing family, Beasley’s sole professional focus now lies on helping Houston get back to the playoffs. The Dynamo suffered through a disappointing 2014, missing the postseason for just the second time in club history and seeing long-time head coach Dominic Kinnear head to his hometown San Jose Earthquakes in the offseason.
Owen Coyle is in charge now, and Beasley is trying to help the Scottish manager return Houston to their winning ways. As always, he’s doing it his way: quietly, confidently, and without much hoopla.
“He comes to play every week, and he’s funny around the group and gets along well with everybody,” said Dynamo captain Brad Davis, Beasley’s teammate at the 2014 World Cup. “He’s definitely reserved, and the spotlight’s not something he cares about.”
While he has been quiet in the media, Beasley has had a big voice in the Dynamo locker room. He helps the team’s younger players along here and there with a word of advice. He’s got plenty to give, too. After all, there aren’t many American players who have taken home domestic hardware in Holland and Scotland and bagged six UEFA Champions League goals.
“Sometimes when you get a little older, you get a little wiser and you see things a little more, and he’s taken that perspective,” said Houston midfielder Ricardo Clark, who played with Beasley at the 2010 World Cup. “He’ll chime in to the young guys after a play and explain things. Having that [international] experience and being able to relate the game to others is important, and Beasley’s been great at that.”
Eventually, Beasley will find himself in front of that computer again, making the same announcement about his club career that he did about his international career back in December.
That may or may not come when his current Dynamo deal ends after the 2016 season, but before then, Beasley wants to put a bow on his storied career, winning the one trophy that’s eluded him all these years: MLS Cup.
“I’ve won league cups in different countries, but I’ve never won one here. That’s my goal: team stuff, not so much individual,” he said. “I’ve been to the final twice and lost twice with Chicago [Fire]. I want to win a championship. That’s why I came here. This team’s known for getting to the playoffs and winning championships. I wanted to a part of an organization that wins football matches, and Houston’s that team.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.