Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman joined ESPN700’s OnFrame live from Brazil last night, speaking for nearly 20 minutes with Bill Riley and Trey Fitz-Gerald about his starring role in the U.S.’s 2-1 win over Ghana on Monday, his thoughts on Sunday’s matchup with Portugal, his World Cup experience so far and what U.S. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s like with the team.
We’ve transcribed the entire interview below. You can listen to Kyle’s chat with the guys here. Catch the entire episode of OnFrame – featuring interviews with MLSsoccer.com’s Jonah Freedman, The Shin Guardian’s Matt Tomaszewicz and media exec Ben Grossman – here.
On what it was like walking out of the tunnel for his first World Cup game on Monday v. Ghana:
“It was definitely special, that’s for sure. There was just a buzz around the stadium. It was interesting, it caught us off guard a little bit that the little kids that we were walking with were speaking in English, perfect English. I was like ‘Where are you from?’ One was from Connecticut, one was from New York, and so it was a little strange being down in Brazil and having to check if we were in Brazil again. But the walkout was great and it really got emotional when we were doing the national anthem. I was looking at my family in the stands and I was able to point them out and they saw me, I saw them and just to hear that anthem – and the crowd was pro-U.S., we had more fans than Ghana – that was really cool. I got goose bumps when everyone started signing. But then a lot of it, it’s very familiar as well. A lot of it’s just like any big game with a lot of people in the stands. I think you have to play in games before you get to that World Cup to be ready for it, because a lot of it was familiar and that’s something that I really felt comfortable with. I was glad I had experience playing in some big games before that so when it came down to it, it was just get out there and go play.”
On what the entire World Cup experience has been like for him thus far:
“It sinks in each day, it really does. For a while, being in camp for about a month, it just felt like a normal camp. It didn’t really feel like I made the team yet, but of course I already had. It just kind of each day started to sink in a little bit more, then when we finally got down to Brazil it started to sink in a little bit more, and then the tournament started and it definitely sunk in even more. But I think finally getting that first game under my belt, going out there realizing ‘O.K., it’s the same ball, still 11 players on each side,’ that was big.
But it was pretty cool tonight, I got to see my family and we were reminiscing about some stuff. We’re all amazed how it came full circle, just kind of really trying to soak all this in and remember as much as we can.”
On what it was like going ahead so early in the game against Ghana:
“It just was crazy how it all happened so fast. The ball kind of popped out, I tried to get on it real quick and get it to one of the forwards. Then it was a throw in and you just saw Clint kind of in a dangerous spot. I was like, ‘O.K., he’s kind of got a little step on the defender,’ and then he kind of wiggles his way though and he’s kind of in here. Then you see it hit the post and go in, the place erupted. You couldn’t imagine a start like that. I’m thinking before the game, O.K. let’s make sure we shut down their counterattacks, worst-case scenario let’s get into halftime 0-0. But to get it to 1-0 that quickly, it was unreal. It felt great; I’ll start a game like that any day. It was awesome to get on top of them and really put a good front foot forward on the game. That doesn’t happen often, so it was cool to get the lead so fast in my first World Cup game.”
On how he felt seeing teammates Jozy Altidore and Matt Besler go down with injuries:
“It’s just wild. When you think about injuries, you never think anyone’s going to get hurt and then all of a sudden it just happens. You don’t see that coming from Jozy, we’re all looking at the World Cup and we’re thinking it’s going to be a big year, a big World Cup for Jozy and he’s going to be such an important part of the team going forward. Then, next thing you know, he’s pulling up with a hamstring. And then Besler, you never usually change a center back, that just doesn’t happen, and he’s such an ironman, the type of guy that doesn’t get hurt. It just kind of happened so quickly, we didn’t really have much time to think about it, we just kind of had to get on with it. I thought Matt did a great job of just hanging in there to get us to halftime. And Aron Johansson, I thought he did great getting in there. Those are tough times when you’re coming in 20 minutes into the game.
After that it was just trying to continue to work the game. We were going to be under it, that’s part of the game. When we go up 1-0 that early there’s a natural thing for the team that’s losing to kind of put all their fears aside and sa, ‘O.K., we got to go after this, we’re losing.’ They’re not going to sit back, they’re going to come after you with numbers. And it’s also kind of natural for the team that scores to kind of start to get in that mind to defend the lead, and I think that’s kind of what happened a little bit. So we had to weather some storms, they’ve got some unbelievable players, quick, fast, skillful so we kind of weathered some storms. For the most part their attacks were coming from wide and we were able to deal with them. They did get some half chances here and there, but for the most part there were no full chances where they broke us down, so that was really encouraging after going through the stuff we went through with the injuries to get through to halftime at 1-0.
The second half, personally I was feeling great. I was feeling strong, my legs felt good, my lungs felt good, and really was just kind of enjoying the game. Turned out it was going to be a dogfight, we were fighting for our lives, defending, helping the guy next to you, helping the guy in front of you and trying to do anything possible to try and win the game. It was kind of like a sucker punch when we got scored on. I felt like we were all working extremely hard and they didn’t really have much except for some half chances and then all of a sudden boom, it’s tied after we’d been winning for 80 some minutes. So that kind of took some of the air out of us, but I think by the time it was our turn to kickoff everybody shook it off. We went down the field, we were fortunate to get a corner kick and then it was no surprise that we scored on that corner kick. We’ve been working on them for three weeks and John Brooks was there and stuck it home. After that it was just kind of seeing out the injury time and head home get ready for the next one.”
On if he felt the U.S. had secured all three points after Brooks’ late goal:
“I did, I totally did. You could tell they did not expect that. They thought in their minds, if anybody’s scoring a second goal it was going to be them. And when we scored on them, you could definitely tell some heads hit the ground, looked down and I think it really took a lot of steam out of them. Personally, I thought there were 20 minutes left. I had no idea how much time there was, so I’m telling the guys ‘Come on, let’s go, 20 minutes, 10 minutes,’ or whatever. In the stadium there weren’t many clocks, but finally I was able to see and saw that there were two minutes left in the 90 and then that there were five of stoppage. It was all about, ‘Come on, they’re going to bring everything they got at us, but if we can break them down we should be able to get some possession,’ and that’s what we were able to do a couple times to close the game out.”
On how he’s feeling after being roughed up a bit in a hard 90 minutes v. Ghana:
“I’m O.K. We’ll see, I think maybe tomorrow I could be feeling it a little. Sometimes the second day after the game it feels worse than the first, but I feel pretty good. I’m just buzzing on being a part of that win and can’t wait to get back out at training and get back after this next game. It was exciting and it sounds like from back home everybody was pumped, going crazy after the goals and winning that game. They were right there with us and now I just want to do it again.”
On if the team’s aware of how the U.S. public responded before, during and after the win v. Ghana:
“Yeah, it’s been great. I think with social media you’re able to keep an eye on what’s going on, which is really neat. As you know, we’ve got a good PR person in Michael Kammarman and he lets us know when good things happen. So yeah, you kind of get a sense of what’s going on. There’s obviously watch parties all over the place and it looked like a lot of fun. Hopefully we can make the parties just like that every game.”
On how he feels about going up against Portugal on Sunday:
“We’ve been watching some of their games – we watched them play against Ireland and against Mexico. Guys in the locker room, there are a couple veterans like Tim and Michael and Clint and older guys like myself and Brad and Wondo and Nicky who realize that – while we were ecstatic for the game of course, we were so happy – we were quick to come down from the clouds and get ourselves level headed and get ready, because we know one win isn’t enough. So I think we’re already focused, we’re already thinking about them individually. As a team we’ll start to look more at them soon. I’m sure we’ll have a midfield meeting where we’ll look at their center mids, we’ll look at their forwards and we’ll know exactly what tendencies their players have. But for now we’re focused individually and we’ve seen some games. Of course everyone knows about Cristiano and we know he’s going to be hungry and motivated after their first game.”
On if the team has been able to catch many World Cup matches in between team responsibilities:
“Jurgen does a really good job of trying to get us to watch as many games as possible. He does do our schedule as best he can so we can watch. We have been able to watch some games, which has been a lot of fun whether we go down to the players’ lounge and watch together or some of the guys watch in their room. But he has given us a ton of time to watch the games outside of practice, in that hour break or whatever. We’ve had to miss some games, but for the most part we’ve watched probably about 80 percent of the games in the World Cup. It’s been a blast, there’s been like two ties, goals galore. It’s just been a lot of fun watching the games.”
On what Jurgen Klinsmann is like with the team, and how his actions in the locker room might differ from his comments to the media:
“This last game, the whole time there wasn’t one time where he mentioned us not winning. It was always, ‘When we beat Ghana, this is going to cause Ghana problems, this is where we’re going to score on Ghana and this is where we’re going to shutdown Ghana.’ I know I’ve heard he’s said things about us not winning the World Cup in the media, but I know that’s not how he’s been with us. I think it was more kind of when you look at the favorites in the tournament, we’re not one of the favorites. And that’s O.K. But from what he’s relayed to us, it’s been all about if we can get out of this group, we can do some special things, some real special things and that’s how he’s always been with us. It’s not like we’re here to just fill up the numbers of the tournament. As far as I’m concerned, we’re here to come and win this thing. I don’t care who’s here. I know there’s some unbelievable players, some unbelievable teams, but if we can get out of this group, like I said it’s just the same game. It’s 11 players on each side and you’ve got to go play the game. You’re not going to win on what names are on your team sheet. So we can dream a little bit, but we’ve got to get out of that group.”