Beckham will play despite ongoing injury
LOS ANGELES -- A couple of games do not an irreversible trend make, but David Beckham has yet to win in a Galaxy uniform. Granted, he has seen limited minutes in the two matches (versus Chelsea and D.C. United), and his team was already down a goal in both contests. Still, a lot is expected of Beckham, and now that he is expected to play for at least a half in tonight's SuperLiga semifinal against D.C. United, better results are looked for, as well.
"We haven't had the right results so far this season," said Beckham, in what could be considered a typical English understatement. "We need to change that."
The Galaxy have been woeful this season in league games, winning only three times. The squad met with better success in the SuperLiga, defeating Mexican powerhouse Pachuca in the group stage opener, then taking out FC Dallas in an epic 6-5 match.
"We've got a Cup game [Wednesday]," Beckham said of changing the Galaxy's course. "We've got to start there."
Beckham diagnosed his team's self-esteem as being the primary culprit for the lack of wins. It might work in the Galaxy's favor to have had previous success in SuperLiga games.
"We still have confidence in our ability, and that shows in training, where we score goals," Beckham said. "We just have to take that into games."
The SuperLiga offers the Galaxy perhaps the best opportunity the team can expect for a title this season. Helping his squad to a million-dollar prize presumably would not only endear Beckham to his new teammates but also make a favorable impression on the trophy-hungry fans of Los Angeles.
At stadiums in Toronto, Dallas and New England, where sold-out crowds hoped for Beckham's appearance to no avail, some criticism has been leveled at the star.
"Please be patient because there's nothing I can do injurywise except get as fit as I can, as quick as I can," Beckham said in response to disgruntled fans. "At some point, I'll be playing every game."
He was guarded, however, about committing to appearing in an upcoming game against New York, where the stadium uses an artificial surface Beckham has admitted to disliking.
"We'll see how my ankle responds to this match [versus D.C.]," he said. "It's a case of seeing if it flares up, which it did the other night when I played. It's a case of seeing day-by-day."
During the Galaxy's Wednesday practice, Beckham participated in a training scrimmage. Although he moved well through much of the action, he winced visibly when taking a shot on goal toward the end of the period.
"It's not perfect, my ankle, yet," Beckham said. "It's about 70-80 percent. But I think I can at least play half a game."
Although many MLS coaches would hesitate to put out a player at less than full-strength, the quality of Beckham is such that even at less than his best, he is still a potentially valuable contributor to the Galaxy.
"He's desperate to play," coach Frank Yallop said. "We could use him, as well."
The tricky balance consists of pushing Beckham's ankle to be strong again while not pushing it so hard that it results in a setback.
"It still feels unstable to a certain extent," Beckham said. "It feels stable enough to play in a game and see how far I can take it."
The truth is that both Beckham and his handlers erred on that count before, as the player admitted.
"Going into that Chelsea game, it wasn't right. I thought I could get through the 10 minutes without aggravating it, but unfortunately, I went into a challenge and got a slight knock on it. It definitely aggravated it and put me back at least a week."
It was Chelsea's Steve Sidwell who upended Beckham with a tough tackle. In competitive tournament play like the SuperLiga, Beckham could face similar challenges, while on an ankle that is noticeably tender.
"I still have a slight pain in my Achilles and under the ankle," he said.
Perhaps the Chelsea experience taught the midfielder an important lesson.
"I don't want to push it and be out another five weeks," said Beckham of continuing to limit his playing time on the recovering ankle. "It has to be right."
Yallop was still deciding when in the game to use his star, perhaps doubting that Beckham's caution could win out over his natural competitive drive.
"He wants to start, so that's a good sign," Yallop said. "Knowing David, if he starts, he'll want to stay on and keep playing."
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.