This weekend’s soccer headlines were dominated by recall of David Beckham to the England National Team. Yes the same David Beckham that was discarded by Steve McLaren and ridiculed by the British press for signing with Major League Soccer. Beckham’s recall didn’t seem to sit well with the LA Galaxy’s flamboyant (and slightly over his head) General Manager Alexi Lalas. Lalas stated that Beckham may not be released for friendlies and seemed genuinely troubled that the showpiece of the club could be missing for several matches. While the British media made this statement by Lalas to be about finances, the more important consideration for Lalas and the Galaxy is the current state of the club. If Beckham misses significant time towards the season’s end not only will the Galaxy lose out on gate receipts they are likely to miss out on the MLS playoffs. (I should point out that Alexi Lalas was the genius that fired Bob Bradley as coach of Red Bull New York less than two years ago; Bradley now coaches the US National Team after winning MLS coach of the year last season with Chivas USA. Last year Lalas fired Steve Sampson the year`after Sampson led the Galaxy to wins in both the domestic league and cup competitions, only the second “double” in MLS history.)
A strong case can be made that the Galaxy are currently the least talented squad in MLS. While other clubs in the league take advantage of the depth of American talent to build a solid and deep squad, the Galaxy continue to bumble and stumble in the personnel department. Besides the schizophrenic Landon Donovan, the Galaxy lack any sort of classic finisher that has the skill to score off of Beckham’s classic crosses. Herculez Gomez could have been a talented compliment to Beckham in the LA attack but the Galaxy shipped him off to Colorado this past offseason. (And Gomez thanked them by scoring the winning goal this past week) The Galaxy also released Trinidad and Tobago’s starting World Cup forward Cornell Glen this past offseason, and let accomplished midfield workhorse Paulo Nagumura go to Toronto in the expansion draft. Currently, the Galaxy back line is a mess especially with the serious injury to US international defender Chris Albright. Recently the Galaxy’s opposition has had no trouble creating many late, potential game winning goals thanks to LA’s porous back line and inability to maintain possession in midfield. After playing with top worldwide clubs Real Madrid and Manchester United, the prospect of having to claw and fight for every point in the domestic league (and the prospect of zero international competition because the Galaxy will not qualify for next year’s Champions Cup or Copa Sudamerica) should frighten Beckham away from the Galaxy.
Chances are Beckham will not dominate MLS the way some in Europe are predicting and that the burden of carrying an otherwise poor club may force needless strain on him. This strain could complicate his ability to lead England towards Euro 2008 qualification. Beckham’s LA tenure may also prove to the world of football that MLS is stronger more competetive league than many think, but may hurt the league’s staying power in the US sports landscape since the Galaxy are unlikely to contend for the title. David Beckham may end 2007 wishing he had signed with Red Bull New York, Houston Dynamo, DC United or any of the other MLS clubs that have a compliment of players that could bring out the best David Beckham has to offer.