Ghana's Mohammed Rabiu, left, and United States' Kyle Beckerman struggle with each other to head the ball during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Kragthorpe: Kyle Beckerman’s a World Cup discovery, on and off field

Soccer » U.S. midfelder gaining national attention for both his play and his looks.

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Tribune Columnist


First Published Jun 30 2014 08:40 am
Last Updated Jun 30 2014 10:39 pm

The world suddenly is discovering Kyle Beckerman. After all these years in Major League Soccer, the Real Salt Lake midfielder is a phenomenon of the World Cup, receiving all kinds of attention from fans and a wide swath of the media.

"It’s good to see him getting recognition," said longtime RSL teammate Nick Rimando.

Some of it even has to do with soccer.

Beckerman will be featured again as a starting midfielder Tuesday, when the U.S. Men’s National Team faces Belgium in the World Cup’s round of 16. He’s thriving internationally, and his value also is increasing due to his absence locally, as RSL struggles while he’s away.

Beckerman’s prominent role has served as validation for himself and RSL. He’s a breakout star of the Americans’ showing in Brazil, as much as any defense-oriented player could be.

Beckerman has received consistently high grades from reviewers after each game, playing aggressive defense and passing the ball efficiently. But that stuff is only part of his appeal. His appearance on this world stage is evoking all kinds of reactions, in a Kyle Korver sort of way.

It seems that everybody’s latching onto him. The Huffington Post suggested the recently married Beckerman and his wife, Kate, "might be soccer’s most beautiful couple," while distributing a series of their engagement photos taken at Rio Tinto Stadium and in a canyon setting.

The New York Daily News quoted experts who strongly endorsed his dreadlocks. Mike Potter, a Broadway makeup artist, described his hairstyle as "Fabio meets Bob Marley — and he’s pulling it off."

Vogue showcased him among "12 hot soccer players in the World Cup" and Buzzfeed cited an "unhealthy obsession" with his looks. Even the San Diego Jewish Journal chimed in, noting Beckerman’s heritage.

So he’s blowing up in America, while being only somewhat aware of the buzz about him. The U.S. players have encountered fans who "let us know that it’s kind of crazy back in the States," Beckerman said Monday, during a conference call with Utah media members. "It sounds like we’ve got the World Cup fever or something, which is great to hear."

Even if his brand is expanding, nothing apparently is distracting Beckerman from his job on the field.

"Kyle’s Kyle," Rimando said. "He’s not going to change. … He’s keeping a steady mind and a humble head and just going out and doing his work."

Beckerman obviously is not intimidated by the level of competition in his first World Cup appearance at age 32. His dependable play has freed up teammate Jermaine Jones to join in the offensive attack, and he’s rewarded coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s belief in him.

So the World Cup has been a lot of fun for the RSL fans who have watched him play for six years, and they hope his stay in Brazil will continue beyond Tuesday. They’d also like to have him back at Rio Tinto Stadium, considering how Real is 1-3-2 in MLS play — plus a U.S. Cup loss — without Beckerman, Rimando and Alvaro Saborio, who was injured during Costa Rica’s preparation.

The World Cup experience is a huge career breakthrough for Beckerman, though, and he’s enjoying every bit of it. "It’s been a blast," he said. "We’re hoping that we can keep it going."

Soon enough, he’ll return to his low-key lifestyle in the Salt Lake Valley, where his dreadlocks blend right in.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt

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