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Jul 11, 2008

Beckham turns in gritty effort against Chivas USA

CARSON, Calif. -- David Beckham turned in, if not a superlative game, perhaps his grittiest performance yet, against the Galaxy's bitter rivals, Chivas USA on "MLS Primetime Thursday." With the intercity competition pushing both teams into a physical battle, the Galaxy captain made sure his team gave as good as an effort as it got in the 1-1 draw.

"It was like, you attack, we attack," Beckham said of the back-and-forth nature of the match. "We're happy that we got back into it after they scored that great goal in the first half."

Ante Razov's stunning strike for Chivas USA in the 15th minute forced the Galaxy to chase the game. Chivas' players fought for every inch of territory on the field, closing down the Galaxy buildup time and again.

Beckham was orchestrating the Galaxy attack from the center of the field, not his customary spot on the right.

"Because we had some injury issues, we needed to improvise a little bit," Galaxy coach Ruud Gullit said.

Regular defender Abel Xavier had a left knee problem, while rookie defensive sensation Sean Franklin sustained a sprained knee ligament that will keep him out three weeks. Other injuries limited Joe Franchino and Alvaro Pires to the substitute bench instead of the starting lineup.

"Ruud felt that putting me in the middle would help us get the ball from left to right to Landon [Donovan] and Edson [Buddle]," Beckham said. "At some points it worked, at some points it didn't, because Chivas sat so far back that I wasn't able to hit balls behind their defense. That was tough for us."

At one point, a clearly frustrated Beckham was tackling wildly for the ball.

He made no apologies for the risky, aggressive action, even as a reporter termed it a "red mist" of angry behavior.

"Coaches have kind of given up telling me not to do those types of challenges," Beckham said. "That 'red mist' has been there throughout my career and will be there until I stop playing, because I hate losing. It's as simple as that."

Gullit did not condemn Beckham, but praised that willingness to scrap for the ball.

"The work rate of David was incredible," Gullit said. "He worked so hard in tackles; he was heading the ball and again he was a great example for the team and that's good to see. Everybody is always judging him on his looks and everything, but I think you saw him today working hard, being a captain."

The Dutch coach has not hesitated to point out in the past when Beckham has been less effective, so the praise was well-earned by the English midfielder.

Though the Galaxy are currently mired in a winless streak, it's not for a lack of effort by Beckham. He scored the only goal for the Galaxy last week. In this match, his crosses, once he was moved back to the right wing in the second half, created numerous opportunities to score.

"If you put him on the right side, of course he's more dangerous," Gullit said.

Yet Beckham didn't hold the lack of finishing against his teammates.

"We created chances," Beckham said. "We didn't give up, even though the players were tired. When it's an open game like that, the players get exhausted. There were some chances that we didn't put away. Soccer is like that."

Not surprisingly, Beckham was a key element as the Galaxy finally converted the equalizing goal in the 72nd minute. He knocked down a long pass from the defense, and he also instigated the ball movement on the scoring sequence. Beckham kept the Chivas defense guessing as he slid the ball across to Pete Vagenas, who sliced a pass forward into the box for a charging Edson Buddle to run onto and shoot through the legs of Chivas goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

"A guy like David, you want to impress him, because he's seen it all," said Buddle of Beckham's leadership. "If he's getting on you, you want to clean it up and bring it every day."

Though the outcome versus Chivas fell short of a win, at least the goal negated Beckham's nightmare.

"When you play a derby, you never want to lose it," Beckham said. "There's always high emotions in derby games. It's no different than when I played in Madrid and when I played in Manchester."

It speaks to Beckham's professionalism and his effectiveness as a soccer pioneer in the United States that he understands the importance of competing with spirit and verve, especially in league play that can sadly take on an inconsequential air until the playoffs.

"Emotions run high in games," Beckham said. "If you've not got that passion, if you've not got that bite, that can affect you as a player. I'll always have that, whether I play here or anywhere else in the world."

The thirst to be the best also has Beckham proud to represent his league in the All-Star Game versus West Ham United at Toronto's BMO field on July 24.

Though it has often been united in derision of Beckham, the midfielder was counting on Toronto FC's loud supporters section to become the 12th man of the MLS squad of stars.

"It's always great to play in stadiums where the atmosphere is great and loud," Beckham said. "Obviously it's a great atmosphere there. The All-Star Game obviously gives us a chance to experience that."

He dismissed suggestions that West Ham would go easy on their American hosts out of politeness.

"I've played against a few of their players in the Premiership and it's obviously going to be a tough game because they are preparing for the season and it's their preseason," Beckham said. "They'll be working hard to prepare for their season, so they'll be working hard to get their fitness. It will be an interesting game."

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.

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