Pro teens get career restarts

MLS: Devin Barclay and Kyle Beckerman, former Baltimore-area high school stars, are with new teams after their old ones folded.

Soccer

February 21, 2002|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Devin Barclay likes the fit, and why not?

The Annapolis native, 18, now gets to play for Major League Soccer's defending champion San Jose Earthquakes, and the surfing in California speaks for itself.

Kyle Beckerman, 19, back from a broken leg , is healthy and smiling these days, too.

In swapping the Miami beaches for the mountains near Denver, the Arundel High grad says he's looking forward to a big snowstorm and a fresh start with the Colorado Rapids.

The recent dissolution of Barclay's Tampa Bay Mutiny and Beckerman's Miami Fusion by Major League Soccer has the two teen-agers on the move again, with the 2002 season starting March 28.

Soccer has provided the two players with a surplus of global experiences, and they have recently completed two more. They represented the United States on the under-23 national team in Portugal, with the squad going 1-1 at the Madeira international tournament, and then went to Italy to compete against its under-21 team, losing, 2-0, last week.

"I've been all over Europe, to South America - a lot of different countries. It's the best job in the world. I'm doing what I love," said Barclay, a former McDonogh School standout.

Still, there's no place like home.

For Barclay, it's Mom's shrimp jambalaya. When Beckerman returns from his travels, the first order of business is to spread out a newspaper and get a bushel of Maryland crabs.

Most importantly, strong support has come from their families as the two live their unconventional teen lives.

Beckerman, who made two appearances in his 2000 rookie season with Miami and one last season before his injury, was hurt while playing for the U.S. Project-40s, a team of young pro players that competed in the A-League. His right shinbone was broken during a tackle in a game against the Portland (Ore.) Timbers on May 2.

His recovery included extra time at home in Crofton. "It was good," said Beckerman. "My parents are my No. 1 supporters."

Barclay is also close to his family. He travels with a laptop computer and a phone card, communicating every day on the phone with his parents and regularly with family and friends through e-mail.

"We talk every single day - day or night - and my husband can't really go to sleep until we've heard from Devin," said Barclay's mother, Liz. "It's like a five-minute recap, and touching base like that is great. It's not just, `What was the score and how did you play?' but also practical stuff like, `Did you pay the rent this month?'

"When he's here, he takes a great big space in our home with his personality, and when he comes back, he steps right in and contributes," she said.

Barclay said by the age of 15 he knew soccer was what he wanted to do, and growing up a little faster is all part of it.

"I don't really think I'm missing out on anything," said Barclay, who received his high school degree through a home tutoring program. "College [soccer] would have been a waste for me, because it's four or five levels below any level I've played. Just playing where I'm at and doing what I'm doing - I'm self-sufficient - why not do it earlier than later?"

Both have made their marks playing for youth national teams. Beckerman, a playmaking midfielder, scored the game-winning goal for the U.S. under-17 team against Argentina in Buenos Aires in 1998 - the first American win there in 86 years. Barclay, a forward, appeared in 19 games, starting 16, for the under-18s in 2000, scoring five times and posting three assists.

Both have trained with pro teams in England. Barclay recently returned from a three-week stint with Premier League mainstay Tottenham Hotspur; Beckerman trained with Fulham last year. And both cherish their experiences.

"You'll go to a game, and the stadiums are right there in the neighborhood. There will be rowhouses all around and then a stadium, so it's really their neighborhood team," said Beckerman. "The fans are just so passionate. They're singing the whole time, chanting, and they're right over the field. The stands are like 5 feet away. It's unbelievable."

As a child, Barclay always looked up to Tottenham striker Teddy Sheringham. Barclay shared the same field with him a few weeks back.

"He's one of the biggest players over there and one of my childhood heroes, one of the best football brains ever. So getting the chance to train with him and just watching him, in person, was great," said Barclay. "We talked a couple times. He was always really nice, asking me how I was doing, and very supportive. I was on his team, and we played really well together, because our styles are similar. It was surreal."

In Tampa last season, Barclay scored three goals and added two assists in 23 appearances for the Mutiny. San Jose selected him with its eighth pick in a special allocation draft earlier this month.

"Devin was the one player that stood out for me, if we couldn't get any of the big boys, which was the case with us picking ninth," said San Jose coach Frank Yallop. "He's direct, very confident, wants the ball and wants to show his skills."

Beckerman hopes to turn the corner in his MLS career in Colorado, where coach Tim Hankinson wants him to develop into a well-rounded midfielder. The key will be handling defensive responsibilities while maintaining his creative offensive play.

"We have to get Kyle to work on the other part of the game to become a two-way, honest player," the coach said.

Hankinson first noticed him during Beckerman's days with the under-17 team and the Rapids used the 11th pick in the dispersal draft to bring him aboard.

"I've seen good qualities in Kyle for about two or three years, and he certainly has the pedigree working with the national team, so there's been great hope for his talent to blossom in time," said Hankinson.

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