By Tony Edwards – San Jose, CA (Nov 18, 2014) US Soccer Players – Kyle Beckerman moved on quickly after his MLS season ended. The LA Galaxy figured Real Salt Lake out, advancing past them to the Western Conference final. For Beckerman, that wasn’t the end of his soccer in 2014. A trip to London to meet up with the USMNT quickly followed. Beckerman plays a prominent role on the USMNT. As the short, but crucial, off-season for his club side looms, it’s important to note that Beckerman’s club career is rapidly becoming record-setting.
Beckerman has a chance to pass Steve Ralston for most games played in MLS as a field player next season. Ralston’s record is 378 with Beckerman at 353. He needs about 4,000 minutes played to pass Ralston on that list. Owing in part to that longevity, Beckerman already owns the MLS fouls committed record and is second all-time in yellow cards (76 to Pablo Mastroeni’s 81).
That probably shouldn’t be the first mention in his bio, but it does speak to the kind of career Beckerman has had in MLS. He grew up in this league, playing the physical style that keeps teams in contention. He also had to create himself as a player, making his game so unavoidably suited to MLS that a coach had no choice but to put him in the lineup. It’s worth remembering how long it took Beckerman to really break through at MLS level. Then he did it all over again with the USMNT.
Another USMNT World Cup veteran, Houston’s Brad Davis, has a chance to take the other league record Ralston holds. Game-winning assists (41, tied with Landon Donovan). Davis has 37 and it’s not impossible to picture him passing Ralston and Donovan next season.
Both of these are important moments. Perhaps they don’t deserve countdowns or special multi-part features on MLSsoccer.com, but then again perhaps they do. MLS might not be at a crossroads when it comes to recognizing its own players and their accomplishments, but there’s certainly the feeling that the contemporary version of MLS doesn’t have a lot of use for what happened before.
I beat the league history drum on occasion because MLS always seems eager to have you forget five seasons ago. MLS might use legacy names for some of its clubs, but their own legacy? The feeling is MLS could take it or leave it.
It’s as if MLS doesn’t want you to remember that Ray Hudson used to coach in the league, that his teams produced some fine soccer, and that the Miami Fusion drafted Kyle Beckerman in 2000. Or that we got to see Steve Ralston, Carlos Valderrama, and Joe-Max Moore – just to name a few – play. Or that there was a time when you looked forward to the Fire coming to your town. Or that you had some variety in uniform style and design. And even if certain manufacturers took too many liberties in color schemes, time has generally been more kind to those designs than many of us at the time thought.
To an extent, every league wants it both ways. England’s Premier League seems to forget that a topflight exited before their breakaway in the early 1990s. North American teams and leagues want you to buy throwback jerseys and hats while paying 2014 ticket and food prices. They want to pay lip service to the days when there were fewer teams in the league(s) as a way of not getting you to think about those empty seats in the upper decks or that even Canadian NHL cities are importing fan-culture schemes from soccer to enliven the game-day experience.
This is not to say that MLS was better or worse in, say 1998 or 2003 or 2007. Some things have improved. However, making your history an active legacy means more than just hanging banners to cover the walls at RFK or having some phrase stitched onto the back neckline of your identi-kit jersey.
It means finding ways to keep those pioneers involved. It means acknowledging that players sacrificed in the early years to make today’s MLS a reality. It means finding ways to educate the fans that this ground is fertile only because of the players and coaches who had lousy training facilities. The ones that took endless commercial flights between games and still delivered a product that often competes with the best in the world.
In 20 years’ time, someone who is currently playing club or academy soccer somewhere might pass Beckerman, Ralston, Donovan, Davis, and the rest of the MLS record holders. Let’s hope those players and the fans supporting them know their history.
Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.
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