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Once the U.S. men's national team continued its Cinderella run into the Copa America Centenario semifinal round, Javier Morales sent a text message to his buddy Kyle Beckerman. The two have been the pillars of Real Salt Lake's midfield for the last decade, so it should come as no surprise that the 36-year-old Argentine immediately congratulated the 34-year-old RSL captain.
The text read: "Hey, I hope Argentina is going to advance too, and you're going to have a fun game."
The Americans' 2-1 victory over Ecuador last Thursday in Seattle locked them into a date with the sport's biggest star and the No. 1-ranked team in the world. As expected, Argentina took care of business in its own quarterfinal, topping Venezuela 4-1, setting up a huge matchup Tuesday night at NRG Stadium in Houston.
And it looks as if the Americans will, once more, turn to RSL's fiery, dreadlocked defensive midfielder on the international stage. The U.S. rolls into the semifinal match against Argentina minus three starters in Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya and Bobby Wood, all of whom are suspended.
Beckerman isn't a guarantee to start, but as FOX analyst and former U.S. star Alexi Lalas says that if U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann is looking for the best possible approximation of Jones, the logical choice is the RSL midfielder.
"Kyle Beckerman is, at times, a much more tactically-composed, and therefore, beneficial type of player to have," Lalas said. "That's the type of Kyle Beckerman that needs to if he plays be in full force."
Against a national team as supremely-talented and deep as Argentina, simplicity while maintaining possession will be difficult, but also a crucial part of the match if the U.S. is to challenge Messi and Co. Lalas said the benefit of having a steady presence like Beckerman ready to step in late in a tournament is invaluable.
"Other players understand very quickly what he's about and are able to adapt very quickly," Lalas explained. "There's no surprises with Kyle. That can sometimes be looked at as a negative, but especially in this type of game, [he has] a real understanding of the players around him."
That could be why, under Klinsmann's watch, Beckerman has always been in the fold. That could be why at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, he stood his ground against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in the Amazon rainforest and later against the eventual World Cup champs Germany in torrential rainstorm. As the mileage racks up and the calendar adds more years, Beckerman continues to put himself front-and-center as the ideal choice when the situation demands it.
"If Kyle can get in that [starting] spot, he's hungry," said Nick Rimando. "He's been hungry all tournament."
Morales has been hosting some friends in town from Argentina, and when they've flipped the U.S. games on, they immediately asked Morales why Beckerman wasn't starting. His explanation regarding his longtime teammate remains the same. Morales knows Beckerman will be ready if called upon.
"He's American, but his passion for soccer is kind of different," Morales said. "It's like he's coming from another country playing a long time ago."
Tuesday wouldn't be the first time Beckerman faced Argentina in a Copa America. At the 2007 tournament in Venezuela, he subbed on in the 79th minute the same minute Messi left the match in Argentina's eventual 4-1 win. Three weeks later, Beckerman was traded from the Colorado Rapids to RSL.
So nearly 10 years later, he could be a key part for the U.S. if it is to sustain what has become a memorable run in Copa America the largest tournament in North and South America. Lalas said he has Beckerman penciled in his projected starting lineup match, although he acknowledged he stopped trying to predict what Klinsmann will do lineup-wise a long time ago.
"He zigs and he zags," Lalas said.
Will Klinsmann zig and then zag back to Beckerman against Messi and the best team in the world?
"I would have no problem playing Kyle Beckerman in the midfield against Argentina in the semifinals of a Copa America on Tuesday," Lalas said.
Potentially foreshadowing his start, the Men in Blazers a popular soccer podcast duo on NBC Sports posted a tweet after Argentina advanced Saturday.
It read: "Tuesday night is going to be an epic occasion for soccer in this country." Twenty-one American flags followed. They were accompanied by a photo of Beckerman, a cultish figure on the show, with another message in big text:
"Lionel Messi? Bring him on."
Copa America semifinal
Argentina vs. U.S.
Tuesday, 7 p.m.
TV » FOX Sports 1, Univision
Kyle Beckerman at a glance
Age » 34
Position » Defensive midfielder
Hometown » Crofton, Md.
Pro career » Miami Fusion (2000-2001), Colorado Rapids (2002-2007), Real Salt Lake (2007-present)
International career » Has 56 senior U.S. men's national team caps, started all three group stage matches at last summer's FIFA World Cup in Brazil.