OPINION: Beckham’s LA Experience Turning Sour

My excitement about David Beckham signing to play in MLS in January quickly subsided when I realized what club he was going to be playing with. Sadly the fears I had about the LA Galaxy which led me to pen this blog in May have been confirmed. Alexi Lalas’ terrible record of club management which saw him destroy a championship team in San Jose, fire the future national team manager in New York and fire the former national team and MLS cup winning coach in Los Angeles have continued. Lalas’ pre Beckham arrival moves of trading goal scoring threat Nate Jaqua to Houston for Kelly Gray and Robbie Findley (who has played very well for Real Salt Lake) along with Nathan Sturgis (who had a big summer with the USU-20 team) for Chris Klein, the signing of an obviously washed up Carlos Pavon and releasing of Santino Quaranta have further undermined the squad which had already been gutted by Lalas’ meddling. Since Lalas took over as General Manager the Galaxy have traded or released Pablo Nagumura, Herculez Gomez, Ugo Imehlu, Nate Jaqua, Joseph Ngwenya, Robbie Findley, Nathan Sturgis, Santino Quaranta, and T&T World Cup veteran Cornell Glen. Each and every one of the players named with the possible exception of Imehlu would be an upgrade over the player currently playing the same position with the Galaxy. Alexi Lalas maybe a gifted at public relations for the sport, but his obvious inability to appreciate and hold talent have been painfully obvious wherever he has worked.

The fact that Beckham has played only twenty minutes of league action in three matches is just as well. I can think of nothing more humiliating for one of the great footballers and football ambassadors of our time than to be thrown to the wolves with such a clearly outclassed bunch of team mates. Landon Donovan and Abel Xavier notwithstanding, it is tough to find any quality in the Galaxy field players comparable to the teams they will be competing with to make the MLS playoffs. With such a large investment riding on Beckham being fit and playing in the playoffs, had it ever occurred to Lalas or the Galaxy that meddling with the squad too much would destroy whatever chemistry and continuity the team previously had. This after all is a club that won the US Soccer “double” (The US Open Cup and MLS Cup) the season before Lalas became the boss. Since they have failed to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history and are now poised to repeat that feat this season.

David Beckham deserves better. Perhaps as his Real Madrid days ended, he was as ignorant as to the quality of both MLS (which is better than many give it credit for) and the poor quality of his future side as the European media. A player of his stature sitting helplessly on bench gloomy looking at his outfit being absolutely outclassed even by an expansion team (Toronto FC) and essentially taken to the woodshed by two of MLS’ better sides (DC United and New England). One thing people forget about Beckham is that he has always been surrounded by superior talent which has allowed him to play his role to perfection with his previous clubs. In Galaxy, he joins a club which is arguably the worst in MLS, whose lack of continuity and understanding of one another is painfully obvious whenever they play. MLS’ quality is not as poor as many believe, which is why the Galaxy’s plight is worse than many realize. This club has almost nothing going for it on the pitch and looks as if it has a bunch of players who show no urgency or interest in the situation at hand. That partially changed for twenty minutes at RFK Stadium when Beckham entered that match, but last night the Galaxy despite being down a goal could not mount anything in the way of a challenge to New England’s superiority the entire second half.

Major League Soccer has benefited from David Beckham’s arrival stateside. But from Beckham’s perspective the experience must be a sour one. He had no idea what he was getting himself into when he signed with such a poorly run club. With upcoming trips to Red Bull New York, Columbus, Houston and Kansas City on the docket, one must wonder how much more humiliation the great player that is David Beckham will be able to take. In each of those matches the Galaxy would have to be considered a major underdog. I have to believe Beckham when it’s all said and done will either want out of L.A. or will want to build the squad himself, bringing in his own front office staff. (I’m not sure AEG will permit this, but may have little choice) If he requests a transfer, let’s hope Major League Soccer can step up and keep him in the league by moving him to a more competitive team, a team that plays for trophies and is in FIFA sanctioned international competitions. (While we don’t have the Champions League in North America, we do have the Champions Cup and Copa Sudamericana, two events that top MLS clubs participate in). Otherwise Beckham could be heading back to Europe to finish out his career before you know it, and his entire LA experience will serve to undermine the credibility of MLS abroad.

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