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Inside MLS veteran Steven Beitashour’s successful career, doing ‘dirty work’ and how he ended up on the Rapids

Beitashour just wants to win and he’s done it in so many places

John A. Babiak, Burgundy Wave

Steven Beitashour brought his hard-working, no-frills work ethic to the Colorado Rapids and essentially has picked up where he left off, in this his 13th MLS season—winning.

The San Jose CA native summed up his role over the past decade-plus for Burgundy Wave, saying, “you can’t have all these alphas scoring all your goals; you need the betas,” he said with a sheepish grin. “You need the guys to do your dirty work. I love it.”

‘Beita,’ as he’s known by many in the game, truly takes that role to heart and has enjoyed being that player-coach, and teammates appreciate it, but sometimes fans overlook until it’s too late.

“I’d like to think I do all the little things that go unnoticed on all my teams in the past that is appreciated more when I leave. It’s happened at every club I’ve been with where we’ve won something, and then I leave, and suddenly no one’s there to do the little things,” he said.”

“At the end of the day, I’m competitive, and I want to help our team win….what’s going to help our team win? Is it me cherry-picking and scoring goals, or is it me collecting the second ball, making the tackle, being in good spots, putting guys in good positions, making those runs to free up someone else? I don’t care. I just want to win.”

Steven has done that most of his career, whether it’s been in California, or stints in Canada, or now with the Rapids. His is a highly successful career including three Supporters’ Shields, an MLS Cup, an MLS All-Star game, and now most recently, a Western Conference championship. None of it may have happened without some luck and one weekend that has ‘lasted 13 years.’

“Winning the Cup was the biggest one,” the Beitashour explains on some past successes. “Toronto was a bit different because we already had a target on us, but we didn’t care. We were just coming up, punching everyone in the mouth - get out of our way!”

“(The All-Star Game versus Chelsea) was a moment that during it you don’t realize it you’re caught up in it, you want to win. Now, it’s like holy crap, that was cool! Back then (Eden) Hazard had just started his first year, (Kevin) DeBruyne had just started, so these guys are all on the team but haven’t established themselves that we know now. When you look back, man... Drogba, Lukaku, Ashley Cole, David Luiz, John Terry?!”

“The 2012 Supporter’s Shield in San Jose was amazing because nobody expected us to do it. The Goonies... those are fun years, similar to our year last year when nobody expected us to win the West. It’s always great when people don’t expect it, and you just shock everybody. That 2012 team was last year’s Rapids team – we kept doing our thing, getting results every week, people asking how they’re doing this? It’s just a good group of guys, well-coached and hard-working.”

With the success Beitashour has seen over his career so far, you’d think he was a highly touted prospect that took MLS by storm per expectations. However, being a self-described ‘kind of just a boring player that’s pretty good at the little things’, Steven needed a few things to fall in place before his abilities landed him in MLS.

“I didn’t get invited to the MLS Combine; I wasn’t on any mock drafts, nobody knew about me,” admits the versatile Beita. “The only reason anyone did is that one of my best friends’ little brother, his coach Mark knew (Earthquakes head coach) Frank Yallop. It’s the only reason I got a tryout with them before that January draft. It was the Summer of 2009; he calls up Frank and says I have this guy; he’s really good…I’d had some trials in Belgium and was doing well in college, but again nothing flashy.”

“The next day, Frank calls me up and says come try out for the weekend, Saturday and Sunday, just train with the team. Apparently, I did well, because he kept asking me to stay a few more days, turned into a few weeks, turned into a month, so that’s when they were like, ‘yeah, we want to sign you.”

“I was very fortunate for that opportunity. I tell some young guys now that you need luck, but you need hard work. I had the luck that someone knew the coach, but if I go there and hadn’t worked hard and done well, they wouldn’t have drafted me. They wouldn’t have asked me to stay past the weekend!”

That weekend turned into 13 years so far, but it also started in Steven’s hometown of San Jose in front of family and friends on the biggest stage for him. “Getting drafted to them was really cool. Obviously, my family’s there, my relatives, I went to school there so all my friends, it was one those things where I honestly had 50-100 friends and family at every single home game.”

It wasn’t just family and friends who took a liking to Beitashour. Still, it seems wherever he’s gone to play, the home fans are instantly enamored with his quiet, persistent demeanor and hold him in high regards even when he returns for the opposing sides. Add to that his Iranian-American roots and an even larger fan base connects with him, none more so than his previous club, LAFC.

“LA is the Iran capital of California – Tehrangeles – they have so many Iranians there so I probably have more cousins in LA than in San Jose. My brothers were in LA at the time, so it was a similar feeling of playing in front of my family.”

Talk with Steven for just a little while, and you can see the impact that his family has and continues to have on him throughout his playing career. Who he is, teammates and coaches will tell you; he is a very diligent, quietly dedicated worker who is a genuinely nice and loyal teammate. “My parents….and I’ve heard that from players, coaches, GMs…they raised me the right way to be respectful, to be kind, treat others how you want to be treated. It sounds like a lot of cliches but not enough people do it these days.”

His time in Colorado began similarly to his MLS debut – almost not at all. In fact, had it not been for head coach Robin Fraser’s time with Steven in Toronto, he may have been down South as we speak. “It’s funny because at the time I was actually in Dallas about to sign with them,” the defender explains. “I was there, I was quarantined in a hotel, and then I signed here because of that relationship with Robin. I have so much faith in him, I love the way he’s a people person, a player’s coach, and his vision for the game. I really see eye-to-eye on a lot of things so that really helped tremendously.”

Now in his third season with the Rapids, and re-united with former teammates Drew Moor, Clint Irwin, and Mark-Anthony Kaye, Steven admits the beginning was tough when he signed here in the Fall of 2020 and even then had some injury issues keeping him out of all action that season. “2020 was mentally difficult for a lot of people, but including myself,” he says, looking back on the delayed start to his time in Colorado.

“The first year was tough with the pandemic. I had been a free agent for a lot longer than I had been used to, and I left my wife and my son in California to live in a small apartment by myself with no furniture. It was kind of tough to get through.”

Beitashour says the extended free agency wasn’t something he was necessarily prepared for, especially given his track record, and was a bit surprised that his age was one of the major issues. “I’ve always, fortunately, been a starter on every team I’ve been on, I’ve always been a sought-after free agent, so it was kind of weird when the pandemic hit, and they were saying, ‘he’s getting older. You don’t go from up here just to nothing, so in my mind, it was difficult to comprehend that age meant so much to people.“

“Coming in (to Colorado), I knew I would be the backup, where I hadn’t done any of that in my career. When you’re pretty much told ‘hey, even if you impress like no other you’re probably not going to play’, it’s tough mentally.”

However, his usual positive attitude and persistence has paid off as he accepted his role on the Rapids squad that has come together and surprised the rest of MLS in being one of the best in the West yet again.

Veteran leadership is vital for Colorado, given the number of young players who have recently filled the roster in the latest rebuilding project. Beitashour has been one of the invaluable members in that role, as proven by his place near the top of a recent list of the winningest players in MLS. “I think the coaching staff does an incredible job preparing us every week, but at the same time it takes preparation for ourselves in the system we play. It takes time for the new guys coming in, like ‘hey, how do we like to play, what spots do we get in defensively, what spots do we get in offensively?’.”

“I think now you’re seeing the rhythm. Now I think we’re in the flow of things, and the guys have that same feel and look as last year.”

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