Donovan endears himself to the Riot Squad

July 31, 2007
HopkinsBy Allen Hopkins
(Archive)

A seat for the queen

Leading up to David Beckham's Galaxy debut, one question everyone asked is where exactly wife Victoria and the kids would sit during games. The L.A. Riot Squad wasted no time trying to provide an option. The Galaxy's supporters club took up a collection and scraped together enough money for a season ticket for Victoria. It's true: They anted up enough for a seat resplendent in red velvet good enough for a queen. However, there's one catch. The seat is right in the middle of the Riot Squad. No word on when -- or whether -- Mrs. Beckham will make her Riot Squad debut.

Tailgating Hollywood style

Through the years, D.C. United players, while walking through the parking lot to the stadium before games, have been known to drop off cases of adult beverages for the fans' pregame tailgate. The tradition not only has further endeared D.C. players to their loyal fans but also has served well to rally the fans against the opposition. Now it looks as though the tradition has moved west.

Before the Chelsea game July 21, Landon Donovan and his wife, actress Bianca Kajlich, handed the Riot Squad an envelope with $600. On the envelope was a handwritten note from Bianca to the Riot Squad thanking its members for their support. The money, a big surprise to the Riot Squad, certainly will provide the best tailgate ever and clearly meant more to the Riot Squad than anything Landon has ever done -- everything except winning an MLS Cup with the Galaxy in 2005.

Inquiring minds want to know

"Is he here?"

That was the question one ambitious, out-of-breath runner (definition: a person willing to run around for any and everything or TV term for any person willing to exchange real money for an opportunity to work in television) asked me, as the Galaxy opened SuperLiga 2007 at the Home Depot Center with a victory against Mexican champions Pachuca.

The "he," of course, refers to Beckham, who didn't play but did watch from a suite. Of course, his every move still provided the crowd plenty of neck-craning and head-turning moments.

The conversation continued.

Me: "Did you see his car?"

Runner: "I don't know. How will I know which one is his?"

Me: "You'll know."

20 minutes later.

Runner: [Excited now] "He's here! I saw his car."

I already have seen several Home Depot Center employees and game operations personnel stop in the tunnel underneath the HDC to snap photos on digital phones of Beckham's car.

Beckham's ride, a massive black SUV with 24-inch rims, is a can't-miss among the players' cars and fits perfectly in L.A. -- the leather headrests with the No. 23 stitched or embroidered are very "Pimp My Ride."

Brazilian BBQ Texas style?

It appears FC Dallas' efforts to sign Brazil's Denilson have stalled. Although the 29-year-old received his P-1 work visa and was set to begin training with the team this week, he has yet to board a plane for Dallas. One source close to the negotiations was "pessimistic" the deal would get done after the delay.

Originally, the tipping point for the winger, who erupted on the scene in 1997 with his memorable stepovers that were as smooth as jazz but sharp like scalpels, was Beckham mania.

Denilson was visiting FC Dallas and watched the Beckham presentation July 13 and said, "I want to be a part of this."

Apparently, his wants and FCD's are too different.

A rare sighting

A couple of weeks ago at Beverly Hills High School, Hollywood United Football Club (a collection of actors, former players, musicians, artisans and directors) played in a charity soccer match to benefit Program for Torture Victims, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit. It was a great time for a great cause, and the soccer wasn't half bad.

At halftime, I noticed a man wearing a straw hat and sunglasses sitting quietly at the end of one of the benches and taking it all in, saying nothing and blending in like background on a movie shoot. After I did a quick double take -- only because you don't expect to see one of the richest men in America enjoying soccer from players who are all better in their own minds than anyone else's -- I realized it was Phil Anschutz.

"Uncle Phil," as he's affectionately known in soccer circles, smiled back at me, enjoying the summer sun while looking for the best angle to turn from the wind so as to light his cigar. It was great to see one of the MLS pioneers basking not in the sun but in the glow of Beckham's debut against Chelsea the day before.

Allen Hopkins covers Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer for ESPN and ESPN.com. Look for Allen patrolling the sideline during "MLS Primetime Thursday." He can be reached at studiosports@yahoo.com.