Galaxy ownership is confident Beckham will return next season and a win in the MLS Cup could help keep the aging superstar, who has been nothing short of inspiring in the playoffs
That’s why in the 89th minute of Sunday’s 3-1 Western Conference final over Real Salt Lake, Los Angeles Galaxy coach Bruce Arena gave his superstar midfielder a moment he so richly deserved. When Arena substituted Beckham, the crowd at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., rose to its feet and saluted the player who is enjoying his finest hour in what could be the end of his five-year run in Major League Soccer
"Tonight is a special night for the fans, for the manager, for the management as well,” Beckham said.
It was also special for No. 23, who now has what he wants and what the MLS needs: the Galaxy playing for the championship. On Nov. 20, Beckham gets the chance to win his first MLS Cup in the United States in perhaps his last game in a Galaxy’s uniform.
His contract expires after this season and there is already talk of Beckham returning to England or perhaps playing in France. Privately, Galaxy ownership is confident that Beckham will re-sign with the club but they are already exploring their options -- did someone say Ronaldinho? -- if a deal can’t be worked out.
"I'm a Galaxy player right now,” Beckham said late Sunday. “I'm 36 years old and I still enjoy soccer. Right now we're focused on the Cup. We don't want to get too carried away. We did that a couple years ago and paid for it."
In typical Beckham fashion his only concern about the future is what happens between now and kickoff against the Houston Dynamo. Landon Donovan has already announced that he won’t play in this Friday's friendly between the United States and France in Paris. Having Donovan healthy is crucial for Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, Robbie Keane is finally rounding into form, scoring the third goal against Real Salt Lake. But Keane has a tough international schedule ahead of him with Ireland facing Estonia in a home-and-home playoff for Euro 2012. The final match is Nov. 15 in Dublin so there is no telling how effective Keane will be in the MLS Cup.
Beckham will be well rested and plenty motivated. His play over the eight day span was nothing short of inspiring. Beckman played both ends of the pitch and contributed an assist in all three games and to the same player, Mike Magee.
In the series-clinching match against the New York Red Bulls it appeared that Beckham would be substituted in the 31st minute after he collided with New York midfielder Dane Richards while attempting to head down a ball. Beckham, on the ground and clearly in pain, asked the medical trainer for smelling salts. He was then escorted off the field, but 11 minutes after returning Beckham’s corner kick set up Magee’s tying goal.
“He's a player with an unbelievable desire to win,” Arena said of Beckham, who has won club titles with Manchester United and Real Madrid.
An MLS Cup may pale in comparison to titles in the Premier League and La Liga but it means something to Beckham, who is the most important foreign-born star to play soccer in the U.S. since Pele. Beckham has helped MLS grow while the league gave Beckham a chance to grow his brand stateside.
“Many people have said for years that I go places for a brand movement,” Beckham said. “I go to places because I want to be successful as a football player.”
The Miami Heat and New York Yankees both fell short within a four-month period. In fact, both teams lost their final games at home.
The Galaxy will host the MLS Cup at Home Depot Center, a venue where they have yet to lose this season. Now, all they need is one more win. And perhaps one more curtain call for Beckham. He’s definitely earned it.
"When it was announced that the MLS Cup would be at the HDC, I said it would be great if we could make it,” Beckham said. “Now we've made it, now we want to win it, simple as that.”