At Last, Beckham Shines As Galaxy's Biggest Star

David Beckham
Soccer superstar David Beckham produces in his first start for the L.A. Galaxy, notching a goal and an assist against D.C. United. (Kevork Djansezian - AP)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 16, 2007

CARSON, Calif., Aug. 15 -- This was the moment the Los Angeles Galaxy, its impatient fans, the club's sponsors, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Posh, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and everyone else even mildly associated with American soccer and a fashionable Englishman had been waiting weeks for: David Beckham standing over the ball at a mouth-watering distance from the net.

The ailing midfielder did not disappoint.

In the 27th minute, with one elegant swing of his right leg, Beckham guided a 27-yard free kick into the left side of the net to set the Galaxy on its way to a 2-0 victory over D.C. United on Wednesday night in the semifinals of the SuperLiga tournament.

"We've all been waiting for that free kick," Galaxy Coach Frank Yallop said. "We feel he's part of us now that he's played and started a match. And to get a goal just to cap it off, it's a dream start for him."

His second-half appearance against Chelsea of England last month was mostly for show. His late-game entrance at RFK Stadium last week was his formal introduction. But his performance here before an announced crowd of 17,223 at Home Depot Center was his true unveiling.

"I always said everyone has to be patient," said Beckham, who played 63 minutes. "I was happy to get an hour on the pitch. It felt great."

Shortly after halftime, Beckham was at it again, delivering a pass that led to a goal by Landon Donovan, essentially securing the Galaxy's place in the Aug. 29 final against visiting Pachuca of Mexico.

Beckham did not just start for the first time; he was also handed the captain's armband, a considerable honor in soccer circles, especially for a player so new to his club.

United was considerably sharper than the Galaxy the first 20 minutes, building possession and creating decent opportunities. Luciano Emilio sent a bouncing ball over the crossbar from short range, Jaime Moreno nearly caught Joe Cannon off-guard by lofting a 45-yard shot that the goalkeeper had to tip over the bar, Ben Olsen volleyed high and Josh Gros tested Cannon with a rising 16-yarder.

To that point, Beckham's only contribution was a negative one -- a yellow card for a late-arriving tackle on Moreno. But the Galaxy came to life around the 20th minute when Beckham overlapped and collected Donovan's pass before crossing dangerously into the six-yard box.

Seven minutes later, following Devon McTavish's handball just beyond the penalty area, Beckham struck.

There was no question who would take the free kick. As the small crowd buzzed with anticipation, United set up the defensive wall, goalkeeper Troy Perkins positioned himself in the middle of the goal line, uncertain which corner Beckham fancied.

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