Weary Beckham overused by the Galaxy
LOS ANGELES -- As exhausted as he was after the 3-0 loss the Los Angeles Galaxy suffered versus Chivas USA on Thursday, David Beckham decided, albeit belatedly, to conserve his energy. He declined to speak to any media.
Instead, his coach and teammates were left to ponder the conundrum that faces the Galaxy and the league -- that in their eagerness to exploit the golden goose that is Beckham, they might have cooked it instead.
Galaxy coach Frank Yallop admitted that playing Beckham was a mistake.
"I shouldn't have done that," Yallop said. "I feel sorry for him to have traveled and end up playing 90 minutes, which wasn't the intention."
Yallop said the grind of two matches in two days combined with 14 hours of intercontinental travel affected Beckham's performance. His set pieces lacked their usual precision, and he played little defense throughout the game.
"It wasn't a good night for that for him," Yallop said.
Beckham was an integral part of the decision to play him, Yallop contended.
"We talked when he first came in," Yallop said. "He said he felt OK."
However, at one point in the first half, even as play continued, Beckham ran to the sideline to drink some water.
"He felt a little bit dizzy in the first half," Yallop said. "It was from the sleeping patterns and things like that, but he's a trooper and doesn't like to come off. He did the same in New York. He didn't want to come out there."
That game also was a loss, but Beckham was far more effective. On Thursday, the cumulative effort in his past three games, two with the Galaxy and a friendly with England, all losses, might have been too much.
The league has only itself to blame for scheduling the Galaxy for so many late-season games. Between Aug. 9 and 29, the Galaxy will have played seven games. A similar crunch of games continues until the season ends.
"It feels unfair. In one week, we've had three very difficult games, plus travel. Of course we're professionals, but we do get tired," forward Carlos Pavon said. "Your body can't keep up, no matter how much you want it to."
Pavon also pointed out that Pachuca, the Mexican champions the Galaxy will face next week in the SuperLiga final, have a far deeper squad, in terms of both bodies and quality, than the Galaxy.
In their attempt to get more players who could deal with the media spotlight and pressure of being a Beckham teammate, general manager Alexi Lalas traded throughout the year for more experienced personnel. However, he didn't seem to take into account that older players are more likely to suffer serious injuries under such a stressful schedule.
Beckham isn't the only one paying the price, Yallop pointed out; three players on the defensive line played through injuries against Chivas USA. Another Galaxy star, Landon Donovan, suffered a calf strain while on international duty, but despite that, he came on in the second half to play 30 minutes.
"We have guys right now who shouldn't be playing," Yallop said. "The schedule has hurt our guys."
In Beckham's absence, the press crowd to which Yallop spoke was a full complement of about 25. As he left and the winning coach, Preki, arrived, the turnover was startling. Only about five remained to hear Preki's comments.
It was a microcosm moment of how MLS organizers have bungled Beckham's arrival in the league. With parity the defining element of the league, handicapping the Galaxy with so many games seems to have assured, despite Beckham's best efforts, that Los Angeles will miss the playoffs. In a critical first year under an international spotlight, the league itself will miss out on the added attention the Galaxy could have brought to the postseason, as well as the ability to attract many new and curious fans.
"It's not fair in the sense that no other team has to do it," goalkeeper Joe Cannon said. "We understand what the circumstances were, with Beckham coming in. The league wants to keep so many things equal, like not letting a team fly charter, [but] then they have one team play a very different schedule."
Ultimately, such a grave miscalculation could make MLS seem like more of a joke than the play on the field ever has.
"We laughed about it," Pavon said of having discussed with Beckham the ridiculousness of playing so many games.
There is a basic disheartening element to expending so much effort with so little in return, one that leaves whatever laughter involved the bitter kind.
"He tried to do everything he could, but the body can only take so much," Pavon said.
Although they realize his arrival was what imposed such a bizarre schedule in the first place, Beckham's teammates appreciate his incredible effort.
"I've never seen that before -- two guys flying in from international duty and both playing extensive minutes," Cannon said of Beckham and Donovan. "It's a testament to the kind of character they both have. They want to win so badly. Some people said of Beckham that he only wanted to win now for his national team, but if this doesn't answer people's question about that, I don't know what will."
Ultimately, it doesn't seem that Beckham's heart is in question. Instead, the brains of the league and the Galaxy administration -- for not protecting their players by failing to protest such a top-heavy late-season travel schedule -- are the ones who appear suspect.
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.