Beckham will be hard-pressed to help the Galaxy
David Beckham is considered one of the world's best-looking individuals, but even he will be hard-pressed to make the Los Angeles Galaxy look good.
Beckham made his debut against D.C. United on Thursday night and while his few touches exuded class and his presence on the field could certainly be felt, you were still left wondering if even a player of his caliber can help salvage a season that is fast becoming an irretrievable nightmare.
The Galaxy, which lost to D.C. United, 1-0, now head to New England to face a red-hot Revolution squad on Sunday. L.A. is in desperate need of a win to keep its fading playoff chances from completely disappearing.
How dire is Los Angeles' situation? The Galaxy currently sit 12 points behind Columbus for the final MLS playoff spot with five games in hand on the Crew. Four wins out of five would pull Los Angeles even but the Galaxy have shown absolutely no signs of putting together such a run.
Can Beckham provide the spark that turns ugly losses into pretty wins? He just might be able to if his cameo against D.C. United is any indication. In just 18 minutes at RFK Stadium, Beckham managed to serve one dangerous free kick into the penalty area (which Carlos Pavon headed high) and sent a perfectly weighted long pass to Landon Donovan, who was denied by a clutch play by United goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
Almost as impressive as those fleeting moments of skill were, perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Beckham's appearance on Thursday was seeing him show emotion and a real desire to get in and help his team gain points. There are plenty of jokes to go around about Beckham simply being here for a big payday, but the English star was truly angry at what he saw on the field on Thursday and was clearly determined to make a difference even if it meant putting his tender left ankle at risk.
We will find out soon enough if that emotion will be short-lived. The Galaxy's next two games will be on artificial turf, a surface Beckham recently stated was less than ideal for him to play on with his injured ankle. The Galaxy must find a way to secure four points from those two matches and they will likely need Beckham to be able to start in at least one match for that to happen.
Will Beckham deal with the discomfort of playing on the turf at Gillette Stadium and Giants Stadium? Will the Galaxy let him play in both matches? Will Frank Yallop be able to keep Beckham off the field when he decides he can't spend any more time on the bench?
Sunday's opponent will provide a very good barometer of just how much of an impact we can expect Beckham to have. If he plays, he will face a Revolution team that went unbeaten in July before suffering a 3-0 drubbing against D.C. United in its last home game. You can rest assured that Steve Nicol will have his team make things difficult for Beckham, with Shalrie Joseph more than capable of putting Beckham's ankle to a stern test.
This is where the Galaxy will need their best players to perform much better than they have in recent weeks. With the exception of Portuguese defender Abel Xavier, who has been a revelation for Yallop's team, there haven't been many good games played recently by the likes of Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle, Pavon or even Kyle Martino, whose clumsy challenge on Fred left the Galaxy a man down in a match they still had a chance to get points from.
If those Galaxy players don't start delivering better performances it won't matter if Beckham's ankle magically heals and his free kicks start finding the net. Just as the Galaxy need Beckham to get on the field, Beckham needs a team that can make the most of his considerable skill. Right now the Galaxy look like anything but.
The so-called "jewel" of Major League Soccer is heavily tarnished and even Beckham's magical right foot may not be enough to polish it. You shouldn't count him out yet though. You need only look back to the winter, when his Real Madrid career seemed over and Madrid's La Liga title hopes looked dead. Beckham helped lead Real Madrid to a championship and if he can work that magic with the Galaxy all the hype surrounding his arrival in MLS might finally be justified.
Ives Galarcep covers MLS for ESPNsoccernet. He is a writer and columnist for the Herald News (N.J.) and writes a blog, Soccer By Ives. He can be reached at Ivespn79@aol.com.