A Galactico arrives on the Galaxy
The aspect of David Beckham as a player might be the most overlooked facet of his move to Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy, but that is by far the most important element to his future teammates, who are happy to have him on board.
"I think he'll fit in great," veteran right back Chris Albright said. "He's fit in with some of the better clubs around the world, so I don't think he'll have a problem. We're excited to have him."
Galaxy coach Frank Yallop already was planning to move Beckham toward the middle of the field.
"You need to have him on the ball as much as possible, not waiting for the ball on the wing," Yallop said. "We need to get him the ball and let him do his thing."
Yallop, who played in England and in MLS, was pleased to have Beckham as an option for his roster.
"He's a fantastic player," said Yallop, referring to the former England captain's experience. "He will bring so much to our team in terms of leadership."
Beckham's skill on the field also was seen as a primary asset by Yallop.
"He's a player that does not give the ball away when he has it. He has that eye for the long pass to play people through. He's got unbelievable shooting power in his right foot on dead-ball situations and from the run of play. Obviously, we know about his crossing ability."
That crossing talent was what was Nate Jaqua, the Galaxy's new forward, was anticipating.
"I love to get on the end of good crosses, score some goals, so with Beckham coming, that's pretty amazing," Jaqua said.
Jaqua was expecting big accomplishments with the new signing.
"Hopefully, we can win a championship."
Yet veteran Galaxy midfielder Pete Vagenas believed the championship pressure for the squad was already a constant.
"We have the most pressure, all the time, to win everything," Vagenas said. "That never changes. Hopefully, [Beckham's] quality will make it a little easier to accomplish that."
Vagenas did expect the atmosphere around the players to transform.
"We've always had great support here [in Los Angeles]. I think we're going to see the biggest change on the road. A lot of teams, when we go in there, are obviously going to have a lot more attendance."
Goalkeeper Joe Cannon realized the Beckham signing represented a watershed moment for MLS.
"Today, we thought, 'Whew, this is going to change our lives,'" Cannon said. "It's going to be fun. When there's someone like David Beckham on your team, you get a chance to be part of something historical with this league."
Though he once led MLS clubs that competed directly against the Galaxy, interim national team coach Bob Bradley was glad more U.S. players would get the experience of playing with Beckham, who Bradley felt set an excellent example.
"The thing that I've always respected the most is that he's just a solid, smart player," Bradley said. "He came through a club like Manchester, where there was a group of really talented young players and they all developed the right habits. Over the years, even the way his star power has grown, he's continued to keep track of all the things that he learned along the way. That's important."
Bradley also believed more attention on the league would result in increased exposure for young MLS players.
"A player like Beckham just brings that much more attention to the league," he said. "When you get more attention, then I think the opportunities for young players continue to grow. Then it comes back and helps our national team."
The spotlight on the Galaxy will be more direct. Cannon reached into America's soccer past to make a comparison as he acknowledged the pressure to gain results.
"We have to win," Cannon said. "Even the old Cosmos, they placed a huge importance on winning."
The Galaxy have won more games in 11 MLS seasons than any other team and have two league championships to their credit. But a slow start to this past season ultimately doomed their playoff hopes. The team fell short, missing the postseason for the first time in club history.
Bringing a player of Beckham's stature into that situation didn't worry Yallop, even with the salary discrepancies between players.
"I feel that if you're having a player like David Beckham, the other players don't have to worry about what he's earning," Yallop said. "If they could earn that much, they would."
The idea of Beckham reducing the rest of the team to his supporting cast didn't bother Cannon.
"It's definitely not going to be a one-man team, but if people are going to market us as Beckham's team, we just have to say, let the media do what they want," Cannon said. "Let's enjoy this."
Yallop didn't foresee any friction ahead.
"Our players are going to embrace him," Yallop said. "There will be no jealousies on this team."
In particular, Yallop wasn't concerned about the Galaxy's marquee player previous to the Beckham signing, Landon Donovan.
"I've already spoken to Landon," said Yallop. "He's excited. He couldn't believe it, really."
"I can't wait," Donovan said about Beckham's arrival, pointing out that as a forward, he had a chance to benefit from the passes the midfielder is known for.
When asked how it might affect him not to be the main star any longer, Donovan didn't hesitate.
"Honestly, if he's here to play and help us win, I think I can handle it."
In fact, it seemed that the chance to play was a major motivation on Beckham's own part to become part of the squad.
"He's an absolutely first-class teammate," said Yallop, who had been in contact with Beckham and his representatives. "He can't wait to get on the field and play with the Galaxy."
There is already a level of familiarity between certain squad members and their new star. Several players faced Real Madrid in a friendly two years ago and met Beckham there.
"He was an extremely friendly guy," Albright said. "I think he understands his role in soccer and he lives up to the expectations that people have."
"We've seen him a few times here," Vagenas said. "He's got his academy here. He seems to be a very open, humble guy. That's saying a lot for someone who is under the spotlight as much as he is. It's going to be good once he gets integrated with the team and with the guys. Hopefully, he'll have a blast."
Andrea Canales covers MLS and women's college soccer for ESPNsoccernet. She also writes for topdrawersoccer.com, lasoccernews.com, soccer365.com and contributes to a blog, Sideline Views. She can be contacted at email@example.com.