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For ex-Arundel star Beckerman, clear path to goal
It was the Junior League State Wrestling Tournament, and Paul and Meg Beckerman were anticipating their son, Kyle, competing in the semifinals when it suddenly became clear Kyle Beckerman, then 13, was going in a different direction.
"Kyle asked me what time it was," Paul Beckerman said. "I said, 'About 2:30,' and he went over to the corner of the gym and started taking off his wrestling stuff. I said, 'What are you doing?' and he told me, 'The [Olympic Development Program] has soccer tryouts in an hour. We need to get going.' "
Beckerman, who graduated from Arundel High in 2000, was going to be a soccer player.
Today, at 27, he is team captain for Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer and in the player pool for the United States World Cup team next year in South Africa.
"It was always my dream to play for the national team even when I didn't know what it was," said Beckerman, who has flowing dreadlocks. "To be on the national team, it's an honor. And I'm proud to be playing Major League Soccer for 10 years."
While it came as a shock to Paul Beckerman that his son - who would win the private school state 112-pound wrestling championship as a freshman and played lacrosse, baseball and football, and even spent a season on a swimming team - had settled on soccer as his sport of choice, it didn't surprise Beckerman's mom, who had clues to his passion early on.
"When he was 4, he was playing soccer with his older brother in a league for 6-year-olds," she said. "When he was 8, the 1990 World Cup was being played, and he knew all the good players. He'd come in and say he was going to watch and started introducing me to soccer. It was always soccer. The ball was there, and he'd just get the ball and go outside and juggle. One season, he even wanted to go to a camp for goalies."
Beckerman said the choice, while clear, was difficult, and getting to where he is now wasn't easy - though he had a pretty easy time playing in high school.
"He was definitely a student of the game," Arundel coach Nick Jauschnegg said of his center midfielder. "He had the ability at times to take over games. It seemed like he had Velcro on his feet. The ball would never get away from him. But even more important, he was a really good person and very well liked by his teammates."
Perhaps because of two pieces of advice he received at an early age, Beckerman has always been a good teammate.
"I was always telling him to play his heart out so he'd be able to feel good about himself no matter what happened in the game," Meg Beckerman said. "He always had the drive, though. He's a hard worker. The MLS says that about him now. They say he fights to the very end. That's his inner being."
And on a road trip with the under-17 national team, a coach stressed the importance of not getting bigheaded.
"When we'd go on the trips," Kyle Beckerman said, "we were told to remember where we came from and not to think of ourselves as better or bigger than you actually are. It's probably the best advice I ever got. It has always been a team concept for me, whether I was with the national team or trying to be part of my team at Arundel. You gain friendships, and everyone plays better."
Beckerman played his sophomore and junior seasons for Jauschnegg, scoring 28 goals and earning All-County and All-State honors. But as a member of the under-17 team, playing and going to school became difficult.
"We'd be in school two weeks, and then in Italy two weeks, then school two weeks, then somewhere else," Beckerman said. "It was too tough to keep missing school, so for my junior second semester and my first semester as a senior, I was in the Project-40 developmental program in Florida. They worked with us as far as the schoolwork goes, and we prepared for qualifying for the under-17 world championships - which we did. We finished fourth in the world."
After he graduated, Beckerman was drafted by MLS' Miami Fusion, a team stocked with veteran international players. He spent his first year on the bench and broke his leg early in the second.
When Miami folded after the 2001 season, Beckerman was chosen in the dispersal draft by the Colorado Rapids. It turned out to be the break he needed.
By his second season in Colorado, he was starting. As he matured over the next three years, he began expanding his role as a defensive midfielder to a more offensive one. In 2006, he recorded seven goals and four assists, making him one of Colorado's top offensive players. Then, in 2007, he was traded to Salt Lake, where he became captain last year and helped Real to the Western Conference final.
Now, playing before home crowds of 16,000, he is an established two-way player who is frequently asked for autographs when out in the city.
Along the way, he has become the youngest player in MLS history to appear in 200 games and become an All-Star. He has also made strides internationally. He has more than 40 international appearances, having played on under-16, under-17, under-20 and under-23 national teams. He made his first appearance for the U.S. senior team in 2007. This year, he played in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, starting all six games and helping the U.S. to a second-place finish.
In July, he scored his first international goal in the Gold Cup quarterfinal against Panama and was named to the national team roster for two crucial World Cup qualifier matches in September against El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago.
He has 10 caps (international appearances) with the team and is dreaming of being on the roster when the World Cup team is named.
"The door is open," he said. "The Gold Cup was a big opportunity, and I did well. ... I'm in better position now for this to happen. When I was a kid, whenever I was worried about making any team I tried out for, my mom always said, 'Someone has to make it, why not you?' "
Alumni Report Each Friday, The Baltimore Sun will catch up with a former area high school sports figure. In the spotlight today is former Arundel soccer player Kyle Beckerman. To suggest former athletes or coaches to be considered for Alumni Report, please e-mail email@example.com.