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Friday, April 18, 2014

Wings' Beasley opens up indoors

BY JEFFREY LUTZ
The Wichita Eagle

Jamar Beasley once had designs on becoming one of the top soccer players in the United States. It happened, but not in the way Beasley planned.

Beasley, a forward for the Wings who leads the team with six goals through four games, was the youngest player to sign with Major League Soccer when he joined the New England Revolution in 1998, when he was 18.

Instead of becoming a face of that league, then in its infancy, Beasley was unable to stick in the MLS. His fame came as an indoor player, where he proved himself as a prolific scorer good enough to represent the United States in two Futsal (indoor) World Cup tournaments.

"I love the game of soccer, whether that's outdoor or indoor," Beasley said. "I just look at it as another opportunity. I kind of fell in love with it, and I really love the game."

As MLS was looking to fill rosters with young players who could inhabit the league for many years, Beasley was an obvious choice. He made his name as a high school player in Fort Wayne, Ind., and was a natural fit for the blossoming league.

Beasley appeared in 41 games for the Revolution in four seasons before joining the Chicago Fire, where his younger brother DaMarcus also played, in 2001.

But Beasley's career didn't progress much in MLS and by 2002 he was out of the league. The following year, he began his indoor career.

Being away from home and not being in a college atmosphere was difficult" Beasley said. "When you go to college and you're out on your own, you get your feet wet and then go professional. If I had to do it all over again, I would do the same things. But if I was a little bit older at the time I think it would be better."

It didn't take long for Beasley to establish himself as a force in the indoor game. He scored more than 60 goals from 2003-05 with the Kansas City (now Missouri) Comets and was a top scorer in St. Louis and Detroit.

Those performances allowed Beasley to represent the U.S. internationally while he was still chasing his goal of being just as recognized for playing outdoors.

"It was a big surprise to me," Beasley said. "I had the confidence to go in and try to make indoor my professional career, but I had no idea that I would be successful and compete in World Cups and that kind of thing. It was a big surprise."

Beasley, 32, was on the cusp of playing at the highest level in the U.S. when he signed with the MLS' Kansas City Wizards in 2010. But he didn't play a game with the Wizards and spent the season back with the Comets.

The 5-foot-10 Beasley was a late signing for the Wings, and has proven to be the team's most electric scorer with 15 points during Wichita's 0-4 start.

"I'm happy here," Beasley said. "We've gotten off to a slow start, but that's indoor. You can be 0-4 or 4-0 but you keep plugging away."

There are few moments when Beasley isn't immersed in soccer. He organizes and runs camps and coaches youth teams in Indiana and calls himself a student of the game.

Indoor soccer wasn't Beasley's first choice, but it has earned him recognition he might not have otherwise received.

"There's a lot of competition," Beasley said. "It's good competition and healthy competition, too. Some guys might be my age — 32 — but you have a good season and you might be right back in the MLS. That's why you keep it going."

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