Saturday, January 8, 2011

When will the Beckham farce in MLS end?


Three years ago, after David Beckham was discarded by Real Madrid, the LA Galaxy of Major League Soccer, where the average salary is just over $100,000, signed him for a reported $5.5 million a season. It was huge news as David Beckham was a worldwide celebrity with a persona that went way beyond just soccer. He was 32 and in obvious soccer decline but in a place like Los Angeles his considerable star power could generate major ticket and jersey sales. He came at the end of the MLS season in 2008 and played 5 games total on a bad ankle and sold out every home game for L.A. and most of the away games also. His jersey flew off the shelf nation wide.

The league gained notice from a largely soccer ignorant U.S. population, this much cannot be denied. Most knowledgeable soccer fans knew Beckham wasn't really much of a player anymore, other than his endearing ability to take free kicks. Still, if he could gain notice for a league that needs more fan support to survive and thrive, anyone interested in U.S. soccer was happy about Beckham's arrival. Maybe he would attract more "stars" to the league?

Unfortunately, from the day he came to MLS he kept his soccer interests elsewhere. He treated MLS like it was a rec league to be dropped in and out of while doing his best to stay on the radar of the English national team. He talked as though he wanted to promote MLS but conducted his soccer affairs like a man who really didn't want to be here.

His second season with L.A. saw an improvement in the team and some flashes of former greatness from Beckham, but on the whole he turned in a relatively mediocre year. Frankly, other than some memorable free kicks with Real Madrid during a four year stint with the Spanish club a few years prior, Beckham hasn't been notably good since his Manchester United days. He played 25 games for L.A. in 2008 scoring 5 goals and adding 8 assists. Not bad, but not worth $5.5 million. Further, his assists came with the best player in MLS, Landon Donovan, as his main, highly reliable target. I could probably get a few assists with Donovan on my team.

After that first full season with L.A., he ramped up his efforts to make the English national team starting to take shape for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He got himself loaned to AC Milan and played a bunch of games there during the Italian season in to 2009. By then he was 34 years old and was effectively playing year round. Slapping the face of the L.A. Galaxy and MLS, he opted to stay with AC Milan through the end of their season which meant he would not return to MLS until June of 2009 being available for only 15 games of their regular season. L.A. went to the finals against Real Madrid and lost in penalty kicks. One wonders what a fully focused and physically prepared David Beckham might have meant for L.A. that game.

He returned to AC Milan after the MLS season got out of his way, and promptly tore his achilles tendon at the beginning of 2010 ending his chance to play for England in the World Cup. While not as important to Beckham, the injury meant he was lost to the Galaxy until the end of their 2010 season playing the last few regular season games and three in the playoffs. Despite the announcers trying to talk up Beckham's 6 or 7 corner kicks in their semi-final playoff game against Dallas, he played poorly and FCD thrashed L.A. He played a total of 23 games over the last two seasons for LA (of their 60 plus) scoring 4 and assisting 6. That's horrible for any starting midfielder in MLS, let alone David Beckham.

This all serves as a preface for the latest chapter in the "world revolves around David Beckham" saga.

David Beckham will turn 36 in May. He could have a productive 2011 season with the team that pays his sizable salary, the L.A. Galaxy, if he prepares with them during their camp which starts in a week. He has poor speed any more, but his field vision and accurate passing remain. With the right preparation, David Beckham could contribute to the Galaxy's efforts to win a championship this coming season.

There is no longer a realistic chance he could play for England in any major tournament, he must know that. Apparently not. David Beckham thinks a lot of David Beckham. So, instead of acting his age and methodically preparing for the upcoming MLS campaign with his primary team, he has been marketing himself in Europe with hopes of getting on a EPL team for a few months. Manchester United rightly declined the aging midfielders services bluntly saying "he's too old". Tottenham on the other hand, isn't so picky. They'll take him. So it seems inevitable that Beckham will be loaned to Tottenham for several months and again start his MLS season late.

What a farce. David Beckham came to MLS speaking a commitment to promote the league through his play and by attracting other top name players to the league. Since he came in 2008 he has put up paltry numbers, done his team little overall good, focused more on himself and playing for the English national team than being a devoted teammate and league promoter like his salary expects. MLS got duped and is continuing to be ripped off. It's ridiculous how L.A. has let the farce go on. They have never needed to allow his loans to A.C. Milan and do not need to allow one to Tottenham. Maybe they've lost so much money on Beckham that loaning him is a way to recuperate some of those funds? Please let it end!

MLS has improved dramatically over the 15 years of its short life. Other than some short-lived initial hype for the league, one is hard pressed to show how Beckham has contributed to further MLS improvement. Beckham is that girl in high school who after being rejected or ignored by all her first choices for prom finally says yes to the nerdy guy (MLS). When she goes to the prom with the nerdy guy, however, she keeps looking for one of the popular guys to notice her so she can ditch the nerd.

When will the Beckham farce end in MLS? I hope very soon. It's embarrassing.

1 comment:

Woody Woodward said...

A Soccer Prom? Were you peeking? That’s what my dog date did to me at my junior prom. I was afraid of rejection, so I decided to ask the ugliest girl in my class to go with me. Never forget her name, but I probably shouldn’t mention it. Anyway, we got there and she ditched me for another girl. No that’s rejection with a Capital R. Not really, but somewhat close to what really happened.