Jamar Beasley toils somewhat in the shadow of his baby brother, DaMarcus, but now is the time for the older sibling to shine as he leads the Stars and Stripes to the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Rio at the end of the month.
"We're putting the finishing touches on the squad and things are looking really good for us," said Beasley from Milwaukee, where Keith Tozer's Americans played some friendlies at the weekend. "We have a good spirit in the team and a great bunch of players."
Although Jamar's career in football took a markedly different trajectory to his more famous brother, there was no separating the pair in their formative years. They played two seasons together at South Side High School before moving to the USA youth residency camp in Florida, where Jamar set sail for the 1999 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Nigeria, and DaMarcus headed to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in New Zealand that same year, where he was named the tournament's second-best player.
From there on, DaMarcus' star shone just that little bit brighter, first with Chicago Fire, then with over 80 caps and two FIFA World Cups™ for USA, including stints at PSV Eindhoven, Manchester City and now Rangers.
Band of brothers
"Me and my brother are so close," Jamar told FIFA.com with an air of pride in DaMarcus' achievements. "We get together every chance we get. After the finals in Rio I'll be heading over to Scotland to hang out with him a bit.
"Last year, when he (DaMarcus) had a long injury layoff, he came over to the States and to a lot of my games," added the top striker for US indoor (MISL) side Detroit Ignition. "
In the early years of the current Millennium, fans of MLS outfit New England Revolution will fondly remember Jamar Beasley as a speedy striker with a nose for goal and ample ability out on the flank. However, in 2003, after a brief stint in Italy and one year alongside DaMarcus in Chicago, the now 28-year-old turned his attention to the indoor game.
"It wasn't a really easy transition," Jamar admitted about moving to the fast-paced hybrid of indoor soccer played in the USA, with rapid substitutions and dasher boards to keep the ball moving. "But I have really grown to love the indoor game."
Defence the key
Beasley is getting set to play in his second world futsal finals, and hoping to see the side improve on their showing in Chinese Taipei four years ago, where they reached the second group stage. The Americans' best-ever finish in the five-a-side finals came way back in 1992, when they were runners-up to Brazil.
"The key to our team is defence," the Indiana-born player admitted. "We like to get in the other guys' faces and put them under pressure. We can get forward into attack well too, but a tough defence will be our biggest strength."
The USA side in Rio will be comprised of mainly of well-known indoor practitioners like Brazil-born Denison Cabral and Carlos ‘Chile' Farias. Ligue One - the top tier of French football - will also contribute in the form of San Francisco Bay Area native Andrew Jacobsen, who plays his club ball for Lorient.
Drawn into the same section as futsal giants Portugal, the USA's opening Group B contest with Paraguay will be a crucial test. "We lost our first game against them last time," Beasley said. "We can't let that happen again. We need to start strong against Paraguay and pick up a result in that first game. We'll be blasting off to get a win."