Counterattack: Should LA Keep Beckham or Donovan?

In the latest edition of Counterattack, Zac Lee Rigg, muse behind "Rigg's Replays," squares off against Andrea Canales, author of the "Canales Daily." The Los Angeles-dwellers argue about which star the Los Angeles Galaxy should keep, Landon Donovan or David Beckham.
Who should the Galaxy keep if they could only retain one, Landon Donovan or David Beckham?

Zac Lee Rigg: Well, my fellow Los Angelino, given the choice between keeping either Landon Donovan or David Beckham, the Los Angeles Galaxy should keep the American.

Now, one never knows what that silly LA management are going to do, but keeping hold of Donovan is the smarter on-the-field choice by far, and after having missed the playoffs for three years running, they're in desperate need of some choices focused on the pitch rather than on the wallet.

Andrea Canales: Um, I'll note first off that Landon played about as well as one can expect a striker to do for the Galaxy this past season, and it wasn't enough to take the squad anywhere.

The Galaxy need to improve as a team and not depend on one player. That's what makes Beckham such a crucial element of the team. His passes get other players on the squad involved. With better balance on the team, Beckham will be a more crucial player by far.

Landon will actually handicap the Galaxy this season - missing a number of games for the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying. Becks should be around for more MLS games - and if Theo Walcott and David Bentley really step up, he'll actually be around for a lot more Galaxy matches.


Rigg: I think both of us expect the Galaxy to have a more balanced and competitive squad next season. Two teams have tried having two players earning DP wages, D.C United and LA, and each have found their little trials to be dismal failures. So one needs to go.

I'll take your point on Beckham's contribution (how else would a guy like Edson Buddle expect to score in the double digits?), but I dismiss the idea that Donovan is only good for scoring. He has shown that he can play in a variety of attacking roles and help out the attack with assists of his own and by drawing players away from lesser players such as Buddle. Plus, he's just now hitting peak performance for his career, whereas Beckham is using those last fumes of creaky legs that can't keep him running for a full 90 anymore.

Too many times last season I saw him standing around on the right flank waiting for someone else to do the work. That's something you don't often see from Donovan.

Canales: Yeah, Donovan's going to be working hard in 2009 - for the U.S. national team. Creaky legs or not, Beckham's the one who is going to be there more for the Galaxy. Plus, the creakier his legs get, the more the Galaxy will benefit from him being around, because he'll then be off England's radar.

While Donovan still has a lot to offer any club, I don't see his motivation geared toward the Galaxy any longer. He's already led the team to a championship. His focus is on making it abroad.

It's Becks that has unfinished business with the club. After all his promises and the anticipation with which he arrived, how could he possibly walkaway now with so little accomplished? That isn't the Becks who fought back from the disgrace of 1998, who battled back from Capello benching him in his last Real Madrid season. It taints the legacy of his career to leave the Galaxy now.


Rigg: Viewed from an individual level, Beckham can still consider it a success to move on and play for a top club like AC Milan. Donovan maybe ready for an overseas challenge, but it's clear that he loves Galaxy.

Watch his performances when they play Chivas USA, and there's no doubt the passion is still there. It's in his contract that he can play for no other MLS club, and I think if Bayern don't make an offer, he'll be initially disappointed, but I can't imagine him not giving everything he's got on the pitch. If there's one player who hates seeing Galaxy in the position they are now, it's not the Englishman who is busy telling every Italian reporter he can find that he would love to stay in Milan.

As for Donovan missing games, that's true. With the MLS schedule that's going to happen, but it should be less than last season. But Beckham is intent on playing in the 2010 World Cup, and his flights are longer (which are worse for aging knees). I doubt Donovan will miss that much more time than Beckham.

Canales: I think you're underestimating the impact of the Gold Cup games, plus overestimating Beckham's chances to make the World Cup.Barring injury, Donovan is always on a first-choice U.S. squad. He'll be tired after those games, no matter how much he cares about the Galaxy.

Beckham sits a lot on the bench for England even now. At some point, Beckham will have to say goodbye to international play, and that's going to be sooner than Donovan will.It comes down to what each player hasn't yet done and what they have left to prove. Europe's been done by Beckham - he was talking about taking on something much bigger.

The whole soccer revolution he was working on here in the U.S. has yet to happen. Yeah, Landon cares about the Galaxy and I'm sure he'd like to return - after playing abroad for some years.


Rigg: A tired Donovan still performs better than a crisp Beckham. Becks is rarely fully fit anymore, especially with all the flights around the country soaking months off the end of his career. Also, it looks to me that Beckham could consider himself a success in America based on marketing, and that he wouldn't mind at all going back to Europe for the on-the-pitch success.

But we're going around in circles. Fact is, Donovan has much more to offer a team that wants to win than Beckham does. Galaxy should be looking to back up their boastful and posturing claims with some actual success, and Donovan gives them by far the best chance to do that.

Canales: Well, I'd hope that whoever stays with the Galaxy, that the organization will have learned to do with less boasting and posturing, and focus on performance instead.Beckham sticking it out with the squad could be the perfect story of redemption.

If he's at the helm of the Galaxy's return to form and another MLS championship, that will be the ultimate on-field and marketing success. I think he knows that and wants that. He's got kids in LA schools who could be bragging to their friends about the Galaxy. He's pals with Kobe Bryant, and there's no way Kobe wasn't telling him at some point, "Hey, I got my LA team to the finals."

Bottom line, Becks and LA win the championship, that's huge for the U.S. game. Landon wins it with the Galaxy again, eh, been, there, done that. It won't really move the needle on soccer in the U.S. If the Galaxy are still looking to be the club that does that, they need to keep Beckham.


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