INDIANAPOLIS – His name may not be the first that pops into the casual fans minds when asked generally about some of the greatest athletes in the history of the State of Indiana, but that continues to change.
A trot out to midfield at Carroll Stadium on Saturday evening proved to be the case.
Wearing a white jersey with blue numbers and red trim of a different kind for the first time in a few months, DaMarcus Beasley was greeted with a loud ovation from the over 10,000 fans who packed the IUPUI soccer venue for the Indy Eleven’s game with the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The Brickyard Battalion chanted his name along with “USA” as he made the ceremonial first kick to the Eleven’s Ben Smith.
“To be here, my first time home in almost five years, it feels great,” said Beasley, a Fort Wayne native, who returns to his home state after quite a month in Brazil.
Beasley competed in his fourth World Cup with the United States Men’s National team in June and July, starting all four games as the team made it to the Round of 16.
He could see the support the US team had with the number of fans who showed up to the games in Brazil and was filled in on the attention the squad got back in America, especially when the team advance out of the group.
"It's been amazing. The fans have been outstanding," said Beasley when asked about the growth of fan interest since he started playing with the national team. "Especially in Brazil. Obviously the amount of support we've had throughout the World Cups I've played in or been apart of has grown now since we've been in Brazil.
"I'm so excited. Hopefully this time the fans will still trickle over and not just wait till another four years to be a USA fan. I'm hoping that it stays the same. I hope we still get the regular common fan still wanting to know about the US Soccer Team and the MLS."
That seems to have been accomplished in the NASL in Indianapolis, where the Eleven sold out ever home NASL game they've played since making their debut in October. Carroll Stadium's attendance is by far the best in the league so far and impressed Beasley as he walked out onto the pitch for the first kick.
"The Indy Eleven have been doing great. They've been selling out every game," said Beasley. "They have great fan support and Peter Wilt, the GM, he's a dear friend of mine back to the Chicago Fire days. So it's good to be here with him, with the fans and hopefully they get a win tonight."
Early in their match with the Rowdies that seemed like a possibility when Kleberson brought the fans to their feet with a 35-yard strike that went into the corner of the net for the goal in the 38th minute to make it 1-0. The Rowdies rallied to tie the game before the end of the half but the Eleven continued to create scoring chances in the second half but to no avail.
It appeared that Juergen Sommer's team would salvage a point in the final minutes, but for a second time in as many home games heartbreak came late for the Eleven. Georgi Hristov completed a run in the 89th minute with a goal to give the Rowdies a 2-1 win and drop Indy to 1-1 on the fall season.
In their previous home game in the Spring Season against San Antonio on May 31st, the Eleven had a goal score on them in extra time which prevented a tie.
While the future is still to be decided for the Eleven's second half of their first NASL season, Beasley made it clear that he would still like to have a future on the US Men's National Team. Even at 32, he would still like a chance to compete in the 2018 World Cup and get the US closer to a championship.
"At the end of the day I'm a football player. I make a joke of my age because I'm 32, I'll be 36 but like I say, I'm not going to let it go easily," said Beasley of his spot on the national team. "If someone's wants to come and take my spot they'll have to take it, I'm not just going to give it to him. I'm not going to retire from the national team.
"Whether (US head coach Jurgen) Klinsmann wants to keep me and bring me into the next camp, I think it's September the next game, the next friendlies. That's his decision. But I'm not going to give up. I want to play until my legs fall off."