Beckham unable to deliver against the Red Bulls
CARSON, Calif. -- In a game that was waiting for a hero, the entrance of David Beckham in the 68th minute of the Galaxy's game against the Red Bulls seemed destined to have a Hollywood ending.
However, the reality of sports -- the sting of which Beckham had already felt in his long injury layoff -- intruded and both Beckham and the Galaxy were subdued as the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
It wasn't that Beckham played badly -- his passes were often precise and opened up opportunities. However, they were also often squandered because his teammates lacked the touch and precision to control the ball well. At other times, Beckham seemed a bit hesitant, unsure of where Galaxy players were breaking.
"We need a little more time training together to get in sync more. We're all missing that from David's perspective, I think," said Landon Donovan. "It's a tough thing to try to work him back now, but we have no choice."
Although Beckham has never been blessed with blinding speed, he also seemed a step slow to close down players on defense.
Yet Galaxy coach Frank Yallop believed that Beckham's contribution was important and intangible in some ways.
"It lifts everybody that he's available," Yallop said. "He's a little bit rusty, obviously."
The plan was always to limit Beckham's minutes.
"We spoke before and he said 25 minutes was about [all] he could go, so we stuck to that plan," Yallop said. "We were a little unlucky not to score. But New York is decent on the break and they had chances as well."
Now the Galaxy's destiny is out of their hands, as the draw dropped the momentum the team had gained with their five-game win streak. A win or draw by Kansas City, combined with a win by the Colorado Rapids on Saturday will kill the L.A.'s playoffs hopes.
Yallop acknowledged that the pressure might have taken a toll on his squad.
"We didn't play particularly well tonight, and we did well to limit their chances," said Frank Yallop. "Hopefully, we'll still have all to play for on Sunday."
The nervous Galaxy squad of old looked to reappear when the team gave up a goal barely a minute after scoring the opener.
"That was us a few months ago and we did it tonight," Yallop said. "But back then, we would have probably lost the game. We made sure we didn't lose tonight."
Yallop wasn't sure if he would start Beckham in the team's final regular season game versus Chicago Sunday.
"We'll see," said Yallop. "I'll make the decision on Saturday or Sunday."
He didn't second-guess the choice to insert Beckham into the match.
"David's service is probably the best in the world," said Yallop. "When you have a chance to put someone like David on, you do that."
The sell-out crowd cheered in anticipation every time Beckham came near the ball, and at one point, he served up several consecutive corners. However, none came to fruition and he appeared slightly frustrated as the final whistle blew.
The loudest cheers of the night were for both Beckham and Cobi Jones, the Galaxy veteran and fan favorite who is retiring at the end of the season.
"I don't have any torches to hand off," said Jones of passing the team on to Beckham. He pointed out that all sports teams pass through a natural transition of players.
It was a valid point, underscored by the competitive reality that exists in MLS, where it is difficult for any one team or player to dominate. Beckham still has a ways to go to catch up to the hype that has preceded him. Beckham didn't perform poorly Thursday, but he wasn't able to rise up to that hero status, either. He might get one last chance to rectify that this season in the Galaxy's final match.
Andrea Canales covers MLS and women's college soccer for ESPNsoccernet. She also writes for soccer365.com and contributes to a blog, Sideline Views. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.