Thursday, 6 October 2011

Frank Isola: David Beckham was the greatest thing to happen to Major League Soccer

The aging superstar midfielder may be wrapping up his final Major League Soccer season, but at least he's showing fans that he still cares after changing soccer in North America.
By Frank Isola

David Beckham, Los Angeles Galaxy

HARRISON, N.J. -- David Beckham still draws a crowd, even on a cool 
autumn night in Harrison, N.J., and with the New York Yankees playing
 a do-or-die playoff game in Detroit.

They announced a sellout of 25,186 at Red Bulls Arena, which in fairness
 was a generous estimate for Tuesday's match between the Red Bulls and
 Los Angeles Galaxy. The host team got creative with the numbers but 
under the circumstances – a match postponed due to Hurricane Irene 
and rescheduled on a school night - it was still an impressive turnout for
what may have been Beckham’s final appearance in Major League Soccer’s
biggest market.
The future of the one-time Manchester United prodigy remains a mystery. 
Beckham is in the final year of his lucrative contract with the Los Angeles 
Galaxy that will pay him $6.5 million this season. Several European clubs,
 including Queens Park Rangers and Paris Saint-Germain, are already 
knocking on his door.

It doesn’t mean Beckham won’t return to the Galaxy and live out the twilight
 of his career in Hollywood with his celebrity wife and ever expanding family.
 But as always, Beckham is a wanted man with options.

"I'm flattered," Beckham said. "But I live in Los Angeles and I'm a Galaxy player."

He is 36 now and doesn’t move like he once did thanks to an Achilles injury 
suffered two years ago while on loan at AC Milan. It cost him a roster spot on 
England’s 2010 World Cup squad and forced him to come to grips with his own 
football immortality.

“I still have pain,” Beckham says.

And yet, Beckham is still a productive player. He is the league’s leader in 
assists with 15 in just 25 games. And if you think Beckham has lost his passion 
just YouTube his heated exchange with Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis
following a match last week. Yes, it was unnecessary, but it’s nice to see a
player of Beckham’s status show that he cares.

He showed up in New Jersey without his two top teammates. Landon Donovan
 is injured and Robbie Keane is on international duty with Ireland. Beckham 
and the Galaxy were dominated by Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls, who are
fighting for a playoff spot. The home side won 2-0 while the first-place Galaxy
 prepare for what they hope will be a long postseason run and will culminate 
with Beckham winning his first MLS Cup.

A championship would be a fitting way for Beckham to complete his five-year
 run in MLS. But it won’t define his legacy in the States. His decision to leave
 Real Madrid and join the fledgling league was the best thing that’s happened
 to MLS.

Beckham’s celebrated arrival gave the league instant credibility and paved 
the way for other international stars, including Henry, to leave Europe for the
 United States. Since Beckham arrived in L.A. the league built more soccer
 specific stadiums and expanded into Canada. Slowly but surely MLS has
 found a niche in North America.

Some of the credit goes to Beckham, a cross-over star who appeals to 
men, women and children. He’s represented the league well and always 
conducted himself as a professional on the field. He’s a likeable superstar.

It’s just too bad New York only gets him once a year. 

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