The question was simple enough, but the answer was much more layered than might have been expected. When asked about his goal to play soccer on the international stage, San Jose Earthquakes defender Steven Beitahour gave a feel-good answer that could have come from any player, at any age, and with any sense of ambition.
“Yes, absolutely,” Beitashour stated with a telling emphasis, “that’s been a goal of mine, since I was a little kid, to play in the World Cup. So if I’m on their radar, hopefully they will give me a call and hopefully I can impress them.”
While he was ostensibly referring to his chances at being called into the U.S. national team picture by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, perhaps in now traditional annual MLS offseason January training camp, the realization that Beitashour was also calling out to the other country which with he has a familial connection, Iran, revealed more about what the third year Earthquakes player wants out of his career. Simply, Beitashour wants the chance to play in international soccer’s quadrennial showcase event, and he’s not necessarily going to be picky about what uniform he ultimately represents.
“Yeah, I have dual citizenship so I could play for either the U.S. or Iran,” Beitahour said. “My dream since being a little kid was to play in the World Cup — that is the ultimate goal. If the U.S. doesn’t want me, then Iran. If Iran doesn’t want me, then the U.S.”
Born in San Jose, not too far away from where he now plies his trade as a professional, Beitashour clearly would like his chance to prove that he belongs in the elite group of players that represent the United States national team. An emerging force in MLS as an attacking outside back, Beitashour has racked up the most assists for the San Jose Earthquakes two seasons running. However, the 25 year old has not been contacted by representatives from U.S. Soccer, despite the growing body of evidence of his ability and the increased support in media circles for his deserved consideration.
“No, I know a lot of people say I have a chance, but they haven’t contacted me,” Beitashour revealed. “So I’m going to keep working hard.”
Working hard is something the third year MLS veteran has done ever since his youth playing days growing up in the South Bay. Clearly a player that carries a performance-inspiring grudge against those that have ignored his burgeoning ability, Beitashour feels justified that the recognition for his talents should be rewarded with a call up to the U.S. national team.
“A lot of people didn’t know me through high school and going to college,” Beitashour said, calling out those that he feels have ignored his progress through the years. “You don’t see me so you don’t know what type of player I am. Then once they see me they’ll be more impressed, since they haven’t seen me play. It happened when I went to college; it happened when I went to San Jose Frogs and they had no idea who I was, and even with the Earthquakes and MLS. Then you see him and you are like ‘Oh, this guy’s actually really good, we’ll take him.’”
However, the U.S. might not get a chance to secure the rising MLS star, especially if overtures from Iran are finally answered by an impatient Beitashour. Not wanting to wait on the sidelines much longer, the Earthquakes defender has fielded calls from Iranian soccer officials about joining their national team for training and evaluation.
“They’ve contacted me a couple times about getting me into some of the camps,” Beitashour said almost as a warning to the U.S. Soccer powers that be that might be listening. “So hopefully the U.S. — c’mon! — will come calling.”
With a slate of important 2014 World Cup qualifiers on the horizon for the U.S., the likelihood of the unproven Beitashour getting a look from Klinsmann look very unlikely, and January’s training camp might be the most realistic way for him to try to break into the defensive rotation. That doesn’t stop Beitashour from lobbying for a look sometime in this calendar year, simply so he can prove to the U.S. coaching staff what he has done to technical staffs at each level of his young career — he has what it takes.
“I think if I get a chance with the U.S. national team, I will impress them,” Beitashour declared. “They could obviously say no at the same time, but I just want my shot, that is all.”
For Beitashour, and his staunchest supporters, that opportunity to make his case can’t come soon enough.
(Photo: Joe Nuxoll, centerlinesoccer.com)