SAO PAULO — DaMarcus Beasley is playing his latest, and likely last, World Cup with little fanfare — just the way the soft-spoken defender prefers it.
Beasley is determined to keep his focus on the field as he goes about his business each day. The first American to appear in four World Cups, he’s helped lead the U.S. to its second straight trip to the knockout rounds.
“It’s not about individual accomplishments,” Beasley said before practice Saturday at Sao Paulo Futebol Clube. “I’ll talk about that after I’m done playing.”
Only two months ago, Beasley would’ve figured Landon Donovan would make history right alongside him. Donovan, a three-time World Cup veteran, was cut May 22 by coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Beasley refers to the Los Angeles Galaxy forward as “my brother.”
“Beas is just the ultimate professional,” midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. “It’s great to see that he gets that fourth World Cup, and he deserves it.”
And Beasley has been offering encouragement to young teammates who seek him out for advice. Defender Omar Gonzalez is a regular to take him up on that guidance.
“Anybody on the team that wants to speak to me about anything, they all know they can come and talk to me,” Beasley said.
From his left back spot, Beasley will be a key to help the U.S. push up field more regularly in Tuesday’s match against Belgium in Salvador to generate an aggressive attack.
The 32-year-old Beasley has made the shift from midfield to defense with the national team and appeared to do so seamlessly. Because he’s left-footed, he was an emergency fill-in at left back for a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win against Costa Rica in March 2013 played in the snow in Colorado.
A longtime midfielder, a position he still plays for his club team, Beasley was initially moved to left back by former U.S. coach Bob Bradley in 2009. But then he went nearly four years before playing there again last year — and the switch stuck.
In a tournament in which the U.S. has no center backs with previous World Cup experience, his steady nature has been crucial.
“I still play with the same heart and desire to win every game,” Beasley said.
He’s the only current member on the U.S. squad from a Mexican club, playing for Puebla. Beasley has never been one to get rattled as the pressure increases.
“You can’t really teach that. That’s always been inside me whenever I played,” he said. “I like big games. I like being under the lights. I like playing in front of 80,000 people. It takes out the nerves for me.”
He started five of the six U.S. matches during last summer’s victory in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, also serving as captain. Beasley was among just five players on the roster who came in with World Cup experience, the Americans’ fewest since their 1990 return to the tournament for the first time in 40 years.
“I’m proud of him only because when he started out as a kid, he was an electric winger and he got at defenses and this is his fourth World Cup,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said.
Beasley has been the one constant on an inexperienced back line in Brazil. Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron started the opener against Ghana, then John Brooks relieved Besler, who sat out the second half because of a tight right hamstring.
Besler and Cameron played against Portugal, then Klinsmann went with Gonzalez in place of Cameron in a 1-0 loss to Germany on Thursday. Gonzalez said they don’t know yet who will start against Group H winner Belgium.
“It’s great having him there. This is his fourth World Cup, so he’s obviously gone through a lot of experiences,” Gonzalez said. “Just here and there I’ve been talking to him about things to expect and he’s just such a calm force. I feel like he never gets shaken up.”
F Jozy Altidore jogged slowly around the practice fields at Sao Paulo Futebol Clube for the second straight day. ... Klinsmann said he hasn’t chosen his first five for a potential shootout, but emphasized the importance of being ready mentally for such scenarios. The Americans practice penalties at every training, he said.
AP sportswriter Ronald Blum contributed to this report.