With David Beckham due to start his American career soon with MLS side LA Galaxy, are the league and the country expecting to much from him?
His new team currently stand second from bottom of the Western Conference with two wins from nine games, and will be hoping that Beckham turns their fortunes, much as he did in the latter half of Real Madrids La Liga season. Yet the American crowds, of which the MSL will be hoping will greatly improve with the super star signing, and more specifically the Galaxy fans, should hold their breath for a moment, take a step back, and realise that David Beckham will be a great addition to their team, and not the saviour that they are praying for.
David Beckham may be acclaimed for his role in turning a potentially disastrous season for Real into a successful one, with performances that lifted the team and won games that would have been draws or losses a few months earlier, enabling Real to pip Barcelona to the La Liga title, and end his stint in Spain with a long awaited trophy. The Galaxy cant expect the same miracle to envelop them. Firstly the scenarios are very different. Beckham took a team that was “struggling” in 3rd or 4th place, to the top. In America he is going to have to improve a genuinely struggling team, something he has never done, having played for Manchester United and Real Madrid. His team wont be as helpful as the players at Madrid were. While at Real he knew that any cross he put into the box would be put away by Ruud van Nistelrooy, any cross field pass would be controlled and played on by Roborto Carlos, and any through ball would be run on to by Robinho, at the Galaxy he will be playing with the likes of Cobi Jones, the all time American cap holder with over 160 appearances, and a one season flop at Coventry City, and Abel Xavier, formerly of Everton, Liverpool and Middlesbrough, but coming to the end of his career now in America. The effort may be there but the talent and skill wont. This will test all Beckhams patience and nerve as normal incisive passes between the full back and centre half run through to the keeper without the forward making the run on time, passes into space end up being lost possession as no one spots the pass, and Beckham is forced to play like the older kid in a play ground kick about, bullying his way past everyone, doing it all on his own. This is how he will have to adapt his game and play, for as much as the MLS bills itself as being a competitive league that is of a far higher standard then the rest of the world would believe, it isn’t. The Galaxy may be able to give Chelsea a game in a pre season friendly, which could be Beckhams debut, but in a competitive game a Championship team would get past them. Beckham will have to rely on his set piece skills, from free kicks at goal, where he should improve his scoring record, and will have to take more shots at goal then he is used to, with the shot rather than the pass being the better option. The game Beckham has been playing for his career thus far will change and it may be sooner rather than later that he wishes he had postponed this particular adventure by two or three seasons. He will also be playing in unfamiliar scenery, and by that I don’t just mean in America, but rather in front of seemingly empty stadiums. The MLS teams play in Football stadiums for the most part, meaning that even and impressive attendance by MLS standards of say 25000 people will look rather paltry in an 80000 seat stadium. This is not what Becks is used to playing in front of week in and week out.
The other problem Beckham will face will be a jealousy problem, with playing with and against players who wont be getting paid in a few life times what the Galaxy will be paying Becks for a few years work. In a professional world you’d think his team mates would just get on with it, but there are bound to be a few problems, especially if he proves to not be as successful right away as many are hoping. He will also no doubt be targeted by the opposition and can expect a few welcome kicks and late tackles. Beckham will have to win over the players like he will no doubt win over the fans.
The major impact that Beckham will have in America will be as the face of of the MLS, with bringing out the fans and getting the games watched on TV. The MLS will be hoping that the Beckham brand will allow the game to grow and improve, and for that to happen Beckham will have to play well and be seen playing well. Another problem that both the MLS and Beckham face is the American factor. Americans tend to idealise the individual rather than the team and their sports tend to play into this. American Football is a game where the entire team either protects the quarter back, or makes him look good by getting on the end of his passes. Basket ball sees the team play around the point guard. Soccer sees each individual play apart in the teams game, which is why Zidane, the best player in the world at the time, didn’t win as much with Real has had been expected. It’s a game where the team is the most important element of the game and not the individual. This is where the American system fails soccer and where the MLS may struggle if Beckham does not turn the Galaxy into a winning team from the off.
Beckham has gone to America to spread the game to the American league, but the job he must undertake is one that perhaps he wont be able to fully appreciate. No doubt Becks will give it his best though, just as he has everything else in his career. Lets hope the Americans appreciate him, and the sacrifice he will be making to ply his trade on their shores – Becks should be playing in Europe for another few seasons at least.