David Beckham will have the final say on whether he makes his Major League Soccer debut tonight, says Los Angeles Galaxy head coach Frank Yallop.
If Beckham manages to finally shake off the ankle injury that has curtailed his involvement in the Galaxy side to 12 minutes of a July 21 friendly against Chelsea, he has a chance of another late substitute's appearance tonight when his new side take on DC United at RFK Stadium in Washington DC.
'The ultimate decision will come down to David,' Yallop said last night. 'We'll see how he is tomorrow. I'm not going to put him out there to re-injure it. We'll put him out there when he is fit and ready to go. He's getting close. We won't force it. He knows his own body and he'll let us know if he is ready to go.'
DC United player Ben Olsen has meanwhile leapt to Beckham's defence for criticism the England player has received for his delayed start to life in MLS.
His lack of playing time since joining the Galaxy on July 13 has caused frustration for Beckham, his club and soccer fans throughout the United States while some critics have seized on the England player's absence as proof he is not serious about playing in their country.
Olsen, a former Nottingham Forest defender who appeared for the USA at last year's World Cup, has plenty of sympathy for Beckham.
'I feel awful for him,' Olsen told the DC United website. 'As a player you relate to him as a player and if you were in his situation.
'He understands what is riding on this and the eyes that are on him. For him to be sitting there must be pretty painful.
'Everyone in the media is saying he is here on a holiday; that's ridiculous. This guy who has done great things in his career and has always been a guy who has given 100 per cent when he plays, has had a remarkable career. So for some people to be saying that is ridiculous and I feel for him.'
Olsen's defensive team-mate Bobby Boswell said his side has enough to worry about if Beckham fails to make the Galaxy squad.
'I don't know how you can wear a suit at a game a couple of days prior and be expected to play,' Boswell, the MLS Defender of the Year in 2006, said.
'I don't think he'll start but I don't really worry about it. We'll prepare accordingly.
'If he does get in we will do our best to do what we always do. We don't want to let him serve the ball, we don't want to give up free kicks anywhere. I'm more worried about going against (Alan) Gordon and (Carlos) Pavon.'
Boswell and DC United faced Beckham last year when they played Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw in a friendly in Seattle.
'He hits a killer ball and he'll pick your defence apart if you give him time,' Boswell added. 'There is going to be a lot more people here than are normally here that want to see him play and be excited every time he touches the ball.
'But I think with the way our fans are, and the way the stadium gets electric, when they go crazy, that will only help us.
'They are on the road, they're in our house and are going to have deal with what we are bringing.
'We take the game to teams in here and when our game is on and our fans are into it, you add 40,000 fans to that noise, it's going to be a little more intense.'