For the Galaxy, a Star Is Reborn
Sunday, June 29, 2008
David Beckham, the cultural icon and marketing powerhouse, is in his second season in MLS.
David Beckham, the player, has, for all practical purposes, just arrived.
Much has remained constant since the English megastar moved stateside last summer -- the swelling attendance figures and late-night talk-show appearances, the billboards and paparazzi.
What has changed is the product he is offering and endorsing on the field.
Healthy and happy after a tumultuous debut season, Beckham's substance has matched his style and helped transform the Los Angeles Galaxy into MLS's highest-scoring team and a championship contender. His lone Washington appearance this year will come at noon today when the Galaxy faces surging D.C. United in front of what should be the season's biggest crowd at RFK Stadium and a rare network television audience for MLS.
"When I am injured, I can be a rotten, miserable so-and-so," he said in an interview last night at the team's downtown hotel. "I am fit and I am happy. It has been an enjoyable season for myself and for the team. I have worked hard to get to where I want to be, and, thankfully, it has gone well."
Statistics explain Beckham's considerable impact on the field. He has missed one Galaxy game to play for England's national team, but started all the others and scored four goals. Entering last night's MLS action, his six assists were tied for second in the league.
"I knew I was capable of getting myself fit and I know what I am capable of on the pitch," he said. "The people, when I first came here, maybe they expected me to score 10 goals every game. But my game has always been about assists and what I could do for the team with hard work and my passing. I've been able to do that, so it's been very good on that side."
It was not so good a year ago when, after leaving behind Real Madrid and the madness of European soccer, he limped into MLS with a damaged ankle. He later injured a knee, and, by the end of the year, he had appeared in just five regular season games for a Galaxy team that failed to earn a playoff berth.
"People underestimate being 100 percent and what that means," said Galaxy forward Landon Donovan, who has benefited from a better Beckham and leads MLS with 11 goals. "Even if you are 90 percent, you are not the same player. He is fit, he is confident, and you can really see he is more athletic than people realized last year. And he is taking advantage of all that.
"He has the quality to do it, so if everything else is right -- his mind is right, he is physically good -- he is going to make things happen."
MLS opponents also see a difference in a healthy Beckham, 33, and must plan accordingly for not only his renowned individual skill, but the influence he has on the game.