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Uncharted territory

Beasley has gone farther in Europe than any American

Posted: Monday April 25, 2005 4:01PM; Updated: Tuesday April 26, 2005 10:15AM
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DaMarcus Beasley
DaMarcus Beasley has scored four goals for PSV Eindhoven in Champions League.
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

On Tuesday afternoon in Milan, Italy, DaMarcus Beasley will do something unprecedented by an American soccer player: set foot on the field in the final four of the European Champions League, the most prestigious annual soccer event on the planet.

(Jovan Kirovski was the first American to reach the semifinals of Champions League, in 1997 with Borussia Dortmund, but he rode the bench.)

Beasley, the speedy 22-year-old U.S. midfielder, is the leading Champions League goal-scorer for Holland's PSV Eindhoven, which meets AC Milan Tuesday in the first leg of their home-and-home tie at the famed San Siro stadium.

PSV long has been known as a steppingstone for such international superstars as Ronaldo, Romário and Ruud van Nistelrooy. But those icons never achieved the level of Champions League success with PSV that Beasley has in his first year with the club. In 11 Champions League games, including five starts, Beasley has found the back of the net four times. And now Europe's version of Cinderella has made the semifinals, going farther into Champions League than have traditional giants such as Real Madrid, Manchester United, Juventus, Arsenal and Barcelona.

All told, between Champions League, Dutch league and domestic cup competitions, the Chicago Fire product's résumé is something special: 42 games played, 23 starts and a career-high 12 goals.

These are certainly heady days for Beasley, a Fort Wayne, Ind., native. Last Wednesday he scored a last-minute equalizer against Feyenoord that helped send PSV to the final of the Dutch league cup. Then on Saturday he played all 90 minutes as PSV beat Vitesse 3-0 to clinch the Dutch league championship. On Tuesday it's expected Beasley will reprise his current role as a Champions League super-sub, a cagy winger/striker who can unbalance tired defenders with his speed and one-on-one ability.

We caught up with Beasley on the phone to chat about the AC Milan showdown, his first season in Holland and the tantalizing chance to win the European Cup.

SI.com: Do you realize how rare it is for an American to be doing some of the things you're doing?

Beasley: Not really. I'm still just in a dream. I'm in my first year and we're still in the hunt for three championships. It's been great for me personally. It's something not many Americans have done, and I'm sure I won't be the last. This just goes to show that Americans are moving in the right direction.

SI.com: How do you like PSV's chances against AC Milan?

Beasley: Like the chances we had against Lyon [PSV's quarterfinal victim] or Arsenal [a first-round group foe]. We're going to play our game. We know they have a lot of great players and they're playing at home in the first game, but we're the underdog in every match. At PSV we try to play a nice, controlled soccer match. We're mentally very strong, and that's what a lot of teams lack. We could be down 1-0 in the 89th minute and we'll score a goal. That says a lot about our captains and our bench guys, too.

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