The season began with more of the same – a circus. Only it seemed to degenerate into an international incident. David Beckham versus Landon Donovan.
Donovan’s comments about Becks in a book were unflattering to the former England captain. But why not? It was the truth.
But the truth was Beckham had misplayed his hand. He could have significantly raised his profile. Boosted his stock. Instead he was a largely ineffective captain of the LA Galaxy who was also at the same time not in the pink of health.
After Frank Yallop and Ruud Gullit, the Galaxy finally brought in the most bemedalled American football coach in Bruce Arena. In his famous words to Donovan: “Let him (Beckham) be the captain; you be the star.”
Donovan performed well in the latter and led the Galaxy in scoring a year ago. But Beckham’s gallivanting and near defection to AC Milan destroyed him in the eyes of many. So he was stripped of his captain’s armband and booed in his first trip back to the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
But after another slow start, the Galaxy began to play great football. In fact they were only one point less than perennial power Colombus 49 to 48. Although they finished at 12-12-6, they made it to the MLS Finals after beating Houston 2-0.
Except while they were one of the better teams in the past season, they were up against a red hot Real Salt Lake that played the best football in the second half of the season.
It seemed perfect… an opportunity for the LA Galaxy to win a title. And Becks, would have won another title in another continent and it would have significantly boosted his falling stock in North America. Except that this time, hobbled and bother by a stingy RSL defense, Becks and the Galaxy were kept on their heels.
And as it went into penalty kicks, Donovan, who had converted on 21 of 23 chances missed badly as his spot kick went way high up the crossbar as RSL keeper Nick Rimando guessed wrong. Edson Buddle, who was named after Brazilian great Pele, bungled a third PK and LA’s chances of staying alive depended on RSL’s Robbie Russell who nailed it 5-4 for the expansion team.
It was a terrible way to lose. But think of the magnificent turnaround – from last place to second place. And the year that started out with gossip page fodder became all about football and really, isn't that what it should be all about (Alex Rodriguez had a similar year except he held aloft a trophy by the season's end). As Beckham gets ready to play once more with the Rossoneri in order to secure a place with England’s campaign in South Africa, the future suddenly seems bright.
And for Victoria Beckham who will be staying with the couple’s three sons in Los Angeles, it is a sign that Goldenballs will be back. Hopefully, he will have fire once more in his eyes.