The Los Angeles Galaxy Football club has become the beating doll of the English and Italian media over the past month. A media who knows very little of football in the United States and even less of football in Asia, unless its throngs of Chinese watching Manchester United via Rupert Murdoch’s satellite systems.
Last night at the Home Depot Center the Galaxy faced Korean Champion Suwon Samsung in the championship match of the Pan Pacific Championships. Perhaps Suwon is deemed an unworthy champion by British standards because after all the K-league features a playoff system.
The Galaxy got on with life without the childish and immature David Beckham just fine this week, defeating J-League side Oita Trinita before taking Suwon to PKs.
Tony Sanneh, the former US National Team star who had been plucked out of virtual retirement by Bruce Arena, his former club and national team manager was efficient for the Galaxy, as was Jovan Kirovski a former National team pool member under Arena. Kirovski who came through the Manchester United youth academy with David Beckham before featuring on Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League titlist squad was acquired by the Galaxy this off season. Kirovski probably was more effective in his one year stint at Crystal Palace than he’s been in MLS, which is odd considering many of our readers are convinced the second division in a nation which did not qualify for the most recent major tournament in Europe is far superior to MLS.
Mike Magee and Edson Buddle were inserted in the second half with the Galaxy trailing 1-0. Both helped extend the Los Angeles attack, and Magee drew a PK and took the shot successfully to draw game level at 1-1. This occurred soon after LA’s Sean Franklin was sent off on a challenge that resulted in a penalty shout for Suwon but who had to settle for free kick just outside the area.
The Galaxy however, lost the title game in a Penalty Kick shootout. Josh Saunders, the on loan goalkeeper from Miami FC of USL-1 (The American second flight) almost made a critical PK save but the ball squirted out from under him and into the net. The Galaxy goalkeeping job is expected to won by Donovan Ricketts, the Jamaican National Team starter while Saunders who features for the Puerto Rican National side, will return to Miami.
The Galaxy have struggled the last three seasons and have been an embarrassment the last two. The only sustained run of excellence the side has experienced in the last two seasons ironically happened when David Beckham was injured towards the end of the 2007 campaign.
Bruce Arena is the greatest manager ever produced in the history of American Football. His perceived failure in New Jersey with the Red Bulls not withstanding Arena knows the American game and the American player. He knows how to mold a good side from the available pool of talent in the states and in Central America. He’s done it before and will do it again with the likes of Mike Magee and Demo Kovelenko leading the way.
David Beckham’s absence makes little difference for the Galaxy. He was hardly committed towards the end of last season to sacrificing himself for his club side, preferring to preserve himself for the English National Team and his already seripticiously arranged loan deal to AC Milan. While England’s footballing landscape features the likes of Jamie Carragher, David Bentley and Gabriel Agbonlahor all of whom have spurned their National Team in the last two years, Beckham actually represents the American footballing virtue: country over club.
The United States National Team features a player pool of committed footballers willing to sacrifice their club career for the betterment of the national side and football in their home nation. American players unlike England’s National Team have a great deal of experience flying halfway around the world for qualifiers, friendlies and continental championships. This is exactly what David Beckham was being asked to do for England while a member of the Galaxy. (except the continental championship part given England’s non qualification for Euro 2008)
Bruce Arena understands this and perhaps had Beckham been more forthright with him about his desire to put his England National Team career first, the most successful manager in US history could have helped him manage his time, travel and body. But Beckham instead chose to go behind Arena and the Galaxy’s back and create a media circus which has not served the footballer well.
The Galaxy will be just fine under Arena with or without Beckham. The question is this however: with the Galaxy turning the corner should Beckham return will he continue to whine like petulant child or will he demonstrate some professionalism for a change?