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Apr 3, 2008

Beckham and the Galaxy find their groove

CARSON, Calif. -- David Beckham scored his first goal in Major League Soccer in a manner in which few could have predicted. For one thing, the ball was moving. For another, he had to outrun another player to even reach the ball to take the shot. Lastly, Beckham chose to forgo a pass opportunity, to shoot on goal instead.

The assertiveness and willingness to move outside his comfort zone paid off. Beckham scored not only his first goal in league play, but he put the Galaxy up in the ninth minute of their match versus their historic rivals, the San Jose Earthquakes.

Of course, these weren't the Earthquakes that staged epic battles with the Galaxy in the early years of the current decade. Most of those players are now with the Houston Dynamo. After a two-year hiatus, the Earthquakes returned to San Jose as essentially an expansion team, though the colors and records of the club transferred over.

Still, the Galaxy were facing a San Jose legend, Frank Yallop, their own former coach and coming off their worst opening-game performance of all time -- a 4-0 pasting last Saturday by the Colorado Rapids.

"In the first game, we were all over the place," Beckham said. It was a kind description of how out of sorts the Galaxy performed in a match where their ineptness made headlines around the world.

In leading his team away from that debacle, Beckham reverted to form a bit later, knocking an incisive pass to Landon Donovan, who had fed him the ball on the opening goal. This time Beckham returned the favor, and Donovan made sure not to waste the service, scoring the final goal of the 2-0 win.

In general, the Galaxy as an entire team performed better than they did in their previous match.

"I'm extremely happy with their performance," said coach Ruud Gullit.

What might have been distressing for the Galaxy was that the squad had trouble finding Beckham at times in the second half.

Video
Quakes-Galaxy highlights
Beckham/Donovan postgame

Gullit conceded that at times, the team captain was getting very few touches, but he put it down to a quirk of the team roster.

"The most difficult part for David is that we play with a lot of right-footed players in the midfield," explained Gullit. He was confident that the Galaxy players would improve on that count.

The Galaxy were eager to prove that they weren't as horrible a team as they might have looked against Colorado.

Donovan, for one, pointed out that it wasn't as if he and Beckham were suddenly improving their partnership.

"The funny thing is that on Saturday, we probably had two or three opportunities like that," said Donovan, noting that the connection just hadn't quite paid off.

Though Gullit praised the effort of the younger players on the squad, it was still telling that none of them managed to get on the scoreboard. It remains to be seen how the Galaxy will respond to the absence of their two big stars, if as expected both will miss time due to international obligations.

For this match at least, the two stars aligned.

"It's great to score a goal," said Beckham. "Tonight, Landon assisted me and then I assisted him."

The duo will probably be productive throughout the season.

"We understand the game the same way and we see the game the same way," said Donovan. Though Donovan was icing his knee after the match, Beckham avowed that his own health was at its peak.

"I'm 100 percent now," Beckham assured.

That's what so many have eagerly anticipated.

What they perhaps didn't expect, though was Beckham's ability to adapt to the demands of MLS. By scoring early on, he took some of the pressure off his teammates, allowing everyone to settle down and gel a bit better.

"I'm usually on the other end, where I'm assisting," Beckham said with a smile, recalling his goal. "I'm very happy, but I'm more happy with the team performance than anything else."

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.