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Galaxy buoyant with Beckham close to return

CARSON, Calif. -- Perhaps at some point, encouraging his squad, David Beckham asked his teammates to hang on, to keep the Galaxy in contention until he could return to assist them.

The new Galaxy captain had, at times, recklessly risked his health to try to aid his team, in both league and SuperLiga games. Since August however, his knee injury had reduced him to spectator status.

You could argue the Galaxy players had been playing the role of spectator themselves when Beckham was on the field. At times, the Galaxy seemed to be waiting for their star to do something spectacular. Without that option, and the responsibility squarely on their shoulders instead, the squad finally responded, winning a record five games in a row. They haven't been glorious victories, but the Galaxy have done all the little things to help themselves.

Against Toronto F.C., it was no different, as the Galaxy gutted out a close win against a pesky opponent.

"Guys dug in again and got the result," said L.A. coach Frank Yallop.

On the field after the victory, Beckham celebrated with his teammates, applauded the fans and signed autographs.

"He said congratulations to everybody," Kyle Martino said.

Beckham's smile revealed a player more content than he had been in weeks. The worried grimace he wore as he watched his team lose games from stadium boxes was gone.

At times, the Galaxy were defeated by fluke plays, making their season looked cursed.

"We were waiting to get on a run," Yallop said. "We've played a lot better than [tonight] and we've lost. That's been hard."

It also hasn't been easy to do without their star, though Beckham has tried to encourage his team every way he could.

"David is fully behind the team," Yallop said. "He was in the locker room today, wishing everybody the best and he means it. He's getting close to the point where he's ready to return. We talked on the field and he was smiling, saying, 'What a great win.'"

Yallop insisted that Beckham was being patient with his injury progress, and had not been pushing to play.

Fellow midfielder Pete Vagenas said that Beckham was eager to return and that the entire team welcomed his arrival.

"It's been great to have him in practice again," he said. "You can see how much happier and settled he is."

All of Yallop's substitutions versus Toronto were golden, as players made an instant impact once inserted. Edson Buddle, Yallop's last change, scored the winning goal.

It may be in this super-sub role that Beckham could return to the Galaxy to make a difference.

"It's been frustrating," Yallop said. "[Juan Pablo] Angel has been a top player, [Cuauhtemoc] Blanco's done a terrific job in Chicago and we've not really had David. Hopefully, we get some minutes out of him on Thursday. We'll wait and see."

The Galaxy locker room was in a buoyant mood after the game. "Ain't No Stopping Us Now" blared on the radio. None of the Galaxy players seemed concerned that Beckham's participation in upcoming matches might throw off the chemistry the team had achieved.

"He's only going to enhance our team and make us better," Yallop said.

Landon Donovan agreed, and he didn't hesitate to offer the captain's armband back to Beckham.

"He's great. In practice, his passes are the best I've ever seen," Donovan said.

Now the Galaxy face a New York team whose star has helped it to the playoffs. With that on the line for the Galaxy, Beckham could make a major contribution.

"We're going to start preparing to play our big game on Thursday," Yallop said. "We didn't want the burden all on his shoulders. We're excited to get him back and healthy. The knee had taken a bit more time than we'd hoped, but it's getting better."

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 soccercanales@yahoo.com.