Tim Howard, Geoff Cameron and Brek Shea got most of the accolades, but RSL captain Kyle Beckerman was one of the U.S.’s best players in the Americans’ historic 1-0 win at Mexico on Wednesday night.
Just how good was Captain Kyle? Let’s dig in and find out.
According to Opta data on MLSsoccer.com, Beckerman completed 25 of 30 passes on Wednesday night, giving him a completion rate of 83.33 percent. His 25 passes completed was second on the U.S. team behind left back Edgar Castillo and his completion rate was fourth on the squad amongst players who attempted at least 20 passes.
And those passes weren't dinks and dunks, either. Beckerman hit just four backwards balls during the game - one of which, it should be noted, he put out of bounds for a Mexican corner kick - meaning he hit 26 passes up the field. One of those attacking passes helped set up the U.S. goal, with Beckerman slipping an inch-perfect ball past a sliding Mexican defender and to Shea on the left wing in the 80th minute to start the play that led to the Americans' tally. Oh, and he nearly scored one himself, too, just missing the top corner with an audacious long distance chip in the first half.
Beckerman also put in excellent work on the defensive side, leading the U.S. squad in both tackles won and interceptions, registering three of each.
Perhaps even better than his distribution and defensive work was Beckerman’s solid positioning. I can’t remember an instance in which the holding midfielder was caught out of position, providing solid cover in front of the back four – especially on the U.S.’s right side, where star Mexican winger Andres Guardado was operating – and pressuring the ball nicely out of the compact shell the American defense was in for much of the game.
But the part of Beckerman’s game that impressed me the most on Wednesday night was how quick he was on the ball. One of the biggest criticisms of Kyle is that he’s too slow on the ball – and too slow with his decisions – to be an effective international midfielder. His performance on Wednesday should – I repeat, should – put those critiques to bed. Beckerman was quick with his decisions all night, receiving the ball, picking his head up and finding a teammate in short order. He kept things moving far better than fellow center mid Jermaine Jones, who was nowhere near as good as Beckerman in possession at Estadio Azteca.
Congrats to Kyle for being a big part of history on Wednesday night. We’ll likely see him suit up for the U.S. again – maybe alongside Michael Bradley? – when the Stars and Stripes take on Jamaica in a pair of World Cup Qualifiers next month.