THE now seemingly permanent status of the United States as a World Cup finals team – next year’s Brazilian jamboree will be their seventh straight appearance – used to be derided by the more cynical as an accident of geography.
But, while the 300million-plus nation does find itself in a qualifying region alongside some tiny islands and slivers of land, more respect is now deservedly being given to the international feats of a behemoth in a game they call soccer.
There won’t exactly be a host of names to have the Tartan Army purring when the visitors take to the Hampden pitch for Friday’s friendly. Jurgen Klinsmann, the German who sends them out there, indeed, is more Hollywood than some of his players who could have been raised in the area. There will, though, be a team – in which a central role could be given to Rangers misfit Alejandro Bedoya, now at Nantes – that can boast a playing record of 16 wins and two draws from 21 games played this year. A total of 12 of those victories were successive, record-setting form that allowed the Gold Cup to be claimed with a 100 per cent win rate in the six-match tournament. And that followed on from 2012 when, for the first time in 75 years, the US beat Mexico in their own backyard. A Mexico, incidentally, that in requiring to face a play-off with New Zealand to decide their World Cup fate demonstrate it is not always a shoo-in for the major footballing powers in the Americas.
One man who has been a key figure in Klinsmann’s cavalry is former Rangers winger DeMarcus Beasley, pictured. He earns his corn with Mexican club Peubla and took the captaincy of his country for his fourth Gold Cup triumph at left-back. His new role has allowed him, at 31, to play 15 times for his country this year alone to become the fifth most capped American, with 112 outings, and place him on course to appear at a fourth-straight World Cup finals.
“It came around in March,” he says. “We had a lot of injuries and Jurgen asked me if I could step in and play left-back and I said ‘yeah’, and he said are you sure, and I said ‘yeah’. That was basically the whole conversation and I haven’t looked back since. I have been playing left-back since that game against Costa Rica. It’s a bit different from what I am used to but, at the same time, it works for the team.”
Beasley admits his time at Rangers was “up and down” with fewer than 30 league appearances in three years offset by a championship winner’s medal – he didn’t play enough games for a second that was claimed during his time in Glasgow – and a goalscoring, man-of-the-match contribution to the Scottish Cup final win over Queen of the South in 2008. “It feels good to be coming back to Scotland. I haven’t been there for four years or something like that. My time was okay. It started off very well and then I got injured and couldn’t get back in the team. As a team, we won a lot of championships and I still have a lot of friends in Scotland and in Glasgow and to be able to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world was a dream come true and I loved every minute of it.”
At international level Klinsmann is proving a huge success, with Beasley believing it is a case of embracing the straightforward. “He brings a different attitude to the national team. Different from Bob [Bradley], different from Bruce [Arena]. I am not saying these guys are not good coaches but it is a little bit different. With his experience of winning a World Cup as a player and playing in Europe for many years, he’s looking after us.”
Scotland v USA: Previous meetings
30 Apr 1952 Scotland 6 USA 0
Two years after their World Cup triumph over England, the US were humbled as Lawrie Reilly tore the visitors apart with a first half hat-trick. Ian McMillan chipped in with two and there was also an own goal. The visiting side bemused home fans as each player took to the park wearing thick mittens that looked like old fashioned boxing gloves, while the goalkeeper insisted on throwing the ball out from behind his head as if he was a quarterback firing to a wide receiver.
17 May 1992 USA 0 Scotland 1
A warm-up for the European Championship finals, the visitors won 1-0 in the scorching Colorado sun thanks to a seventh-minute strike from Pat Nevin. Picking the ball up on the right, the midfielder drove inside and played a neat one-two with Ally McCoist, before flicking the ball into the top corner.
26 May 1996 USA 2 Scotland 1
Another Euros warm-up. Craig Brown’s team started things well enough and Gordon Durie broke the deadlock. Eric Wynalda then scored his country’s first senior goal against Scotland from the penalty spot, before Cobi Jones smashed the winner from 25 yards.
30 May 1998 USA 0 Scotland 0
Scotland headed to the States once more to prepare for a major tournament, this time the World Cup, but it was a listless contest.
12 Nov 2005 Scotland 1 USA 1
Scotland fought back from a goal down in an even game at Hampden. A Josh Wolff penalty had the US in front but Andy Webster equalised with a header.
26 May 2012 USA 5 Scotland 1
An embarrassing defeat for Craig Levein’s Scotland in Jacksonville. Landon Donovan, left, gave the US an early lead, doubled by Michael Bradley after 11 minutes. Kenny Miller cut into the deficit before another two from Donovan and a header from Jermaine Jones completed the rout.