So, David Beckham flew all the way from Los Angeles to London so he could sit on the bench for the friendly against Slovakia and play 10 minutes of garbage time once England had a four goal lead against Croatia. He got a great view of how Shaun Wright Phillips did well against Slovakia and how Aaron Lennon completely tore up Croatia. And as Beckham watched these games, luxuriating in the Wembley atmosphere, he must have realized something fairly shattering – he will not make the English World Cup squad this summer. Both Phillips and Lennon are in line ahead of Beckham, and with Theo Walcott more than able to handle the position in case of a crisis, there is little reason for Coach Fabio Capello to bring three right sided mid fielders to South Africa.
How has Beckham fallen so far down the pecking order? Chances are that Capello has seen the tapes of Beckham’s games with the Los Angeles Galaxy and has realized what Galaxy fans have noticed since his return from AC Milan – he simply has not played that well. A week ago Saturday, the headlines from Los Angeles to London trumpeted his first Galaxy goal in over a year – a goal that existed in the netherworld between “great skill” and “great luck.” Aside from that one moment, there has been little in his Galaxy performance to assure Capello that Beckham has what it takes to make a difference for the English squad.
Since he has returned from AC Milan (via a nice holiday in Sardinia) Beckham has played in six MLS games for the Galaxy. Aside from his goal against Chivas, he has barely shot the ball (4 shots on goal during that stretch). However, Beckham is more about service than scoring? Sadly, he has tallied only one assist during that stretch, and that assist was a four yard pass to Landon Donovan at Kansas City, who then collected that ball, dribbled thirty yards and rifled it past Kevin Hartman from just outside the box.
All the stats aside, the simple fact is that Beckham’s quality of play has been poor, and had he not scored the goal against Chivas, that game would have been one of his worst for the Galaxy. For most of the game, Beckham seemed intent on launching a series on long passes that had no chance getting to his intended targets. His effort to find some non-existent seam in the Chivas defense to spring Mike Magee or Jovan Kirovski just wound up cheaply giving possession back to the Goats. These long balls were occasionally interrupted with some highly comical referee haranguing. This was especially true in the 55th minute when Chivas’ Paolo Nagamura handled the ball in the midfield and the referee missed the call. Evidently Beckham thought it was a better use of his time to stand and scream at the referee rather than try to defend as Chivas raced past him to press their advantage.
This is in-line with Beckham’s overall attitude on the pitch since his return to the MLS. The vitriolic reception he got when he first stepped out at the HDC in the July friendly against AC Milan seems to have shocked him, and he has appeared slightly unhinged at both his home games since. Aside from the game against Chivas, his only other home MLS match was against Seattle on August 15 where his early red card ejection for a silly studs-up tackle against Peter Vagenas cost the Galaxy the game. Oddly, the Galaxy’s best game since Beckham’s return was four days later in Chicago. With Beckham forced to sit out, the Galaxy bossed the midfield, controlled the possession and easily beat the Fire 2-0.
Finally, the most baffling thing about Beckham’s entire MLS career is his inability to take a good free kick. In the 72nd minute in his last game, Chivas fouled Kirovski eight yards outside the box in a perfect position for Beckham to drill one of his patented dead balls triumphs. Instead, Beckham mis-struck the ball which bounded waist-high off the Chivas wall. This result is no surprise to Galaxy fans. In his entire Galaxy career, guess how many MLS goals Beckham has scored off of free kicks? Zero. Nada. Zilch. Aside from the friendly against Barcelona, Beckham’s only other free kick goal was against DC United in a Super Liga match in 2007.
So, while the world wonders whether Beckham will play for AC Milan, Spurs, or some other high flier come the new year, Fabio Capello and the Galaxy fans wonder whether they have already seen the best that Beckham has to offer.