LA Galaxy's “What’s His Name” Proves His Worth

November 18, 2011

David Beckham / The Daily Sports Herald
It’s usually a good idea when making an argument to support it with facts rather than blanket statements that are just opinions.

Recently in a prominent local Southern California newspaper, David Beckham’s 5-year contract with the LA Galaxy was opined to be a "waste," with  "little value” returned for the signing.

In addition, there were other ignorant comments, including one that Beckham "must be a real zero in person."

Beckham began his MLS career in 2007 when he left Real Madrid to join the LA Galaxy for the last couple of months of the MLS season. Due to an injury in La Liga and in MLS, and the fact that he played in two games in the 2007 season, it would not be fair to start the evaluation there.

However, his contract with LA was already paying off immediately for the Galaxy and the MLS, as the sale of Beckham’s jersey reached over a quarter of a million after his arrival. Since 2007, jersey sales have only continued to increase as each new Galaxy season brought with it a new jersey.  Overall, MLS jersey sales were up 300% within the first year he was in the league.

Playing a complete season in 2008, Beckham was able to start his full impact on MLS and soccer in America. As he and Landon Donovan tried to lead a young and mediocre team into the playoffs that season before falling short, Beckham scored 5 goals and had 10 assists while playing in 25 games.

His 5 goals during the 2008 season (for a player that wasn’t a big-time goal scorer while at Manchester United or Real Madrid) was the third highest on the Galaxy that year. It was also his highest goal-scoring total in any year Beckham played with the Galaxy, and was higher than any he had while playing for Spanish soccer giants Real Madrid. Also, his 10 assists in the 2008 campaign ranked as the highest of any Galaxy player and in the top 5 of MLS league leaders.

The biggest, and probably only, argument against Beckham’s 5-year contract with MLS isn’t his on-field performance or the impact he’s had off the field towards soccer in America, but rather is his loan to AC Milan during 2009-2010.

One side of the argument is that he was playing with AC Milan in order to make England's national team for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. However, opposing views will say that he abandoned his contract with the LA Galaxy and turned his back on the MLS. While both points probably have some merit and are important to the discussion, it is also important to look at what Beckham did in the 2009 and 2010 MLS seasons.

In the 2009 season, he returned from AC Milan to play 15 regular season games with the Galaxy and helped lead the team to the Western Conference Championship. The Galaxy would win the West and play Real Salt Lake in the 2009 MLS Cup in Seattle. Beckham assisted on the Galaxy’s goal in the championship game and scored his penalty kick in a penalty shootout that the Galaxy came within one heartbreaking kick of winning the MLS championship.

In the 2010 season, Beckham tore his Achilles tendon while on loan with AC Milan, effectively crushing in a split second his goal of playing for England one last time in the FIFA World Cup.

Beckham could have called it a season and sulked about his broken dream. However, he worked his butt off to return from the injury -- disproving those who said he only cared about playing soccer in Europe --  and rejoined the Galaxy on the pitch within 6 months of the possible career-ending injury.

Beckham would play in 8 regular season games with the team, score 2 goals and have 3 assists, and help lead the team to a MLS Supporters’ Shield trophy and a second straight Western Conference Championship game.

Going into the 2011 MLS season and his last year under contract, Beckham has had an MVP season. Playing almost every game this season, Beckham was the league leader in assists until the final game of the regular season when Houston’s Brad Davis earned 2 assists in their final game to win top honors.

Beckham’s 15 assists were the second highest in 2011, and his 7 game-winning assists gave him the sole lead in that statistic for 2011. His 2011 season performance earned him a spot in the MLS Best XI and also brought him the MLS Comeback Player of the Year award, as he returned with a vengeance following 2010’s Achilles injury.

Beckham and Donovan have brilliantly led the Galaxy to Sunday's 2011 MLS Cup versus the Houston Dynamo. On their way to the MLS Cup, the Galaxy and Beckham won a second straight Supporters’ Shield trophy; beat stiff MLS competition in the New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake to advance to the championship game; qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League knockout round for 2012; and appeared in a remarkable third straight Western Conference Championship game.

Sure, there is plenty more to talk about why Beckham's presence in MLS was worth the investment (MLS attendance growth since 2007; the appreciated value and expansion of MLS since 2007; 2011 MLS Cup’s projected record setting attendance and revenue; and MLS’ new ground-breaking TV broadcast deal with NBC Sports for next season). But the recent above-mentioned article about Beckham did not want to acknowledge the above achievements and instead said “David Beckham hasn’t accomplished much since landing in Los Angeles nearly five years ago.”

Let’s forget the facts of Beckham’s 5-year tenure with the LA Galaxy, and instead match opinion with opinion. The aforementioned article stated that “he must be a real zero in person.” Harsh words.

I have had the opportunity to cover the Galaxy in recent years, and here's what I have seen:

  • A professional that spends as much time as anybody speaking with the media after games, practices, and other events, even during the difficult and uncomfortable questions.
  • An athlete who gives away his jersey after the games (home and away) to children who follow soccer in America, and who also spends ample time signing autographs for the fans.
  • A business man who has helped promote MLS by appearing on various TV and radio talk shows during the last 5 years.
  •  A family man that visits children in hospitals in Southern California and throughout the world, brings his kids to every home game, and personally visited British and American troops in Afghanistan in May of 2010, which was about nothing more than goodwill.

Finally, I remember being near the field after the Galaxy lost the 2009 MLS Cup in Seattle to Real Salt Lake. As the MLS Cup trophy was being awarded to RSL, the Galaxy players and coaches were heading to the locker room, except for Beckham. He was standing by himself in proximity to the stage and clapping out of respect for the winning team.

I watched as Galaxy coach Bruce Arena turned around on his way off the field and saw what Beckham was doing. Arena ordered the team, coaches, and staff to turn around too,  and to follow Beckham’s professionalism.

Was “what’s his name” of the LA Galaxy worth it? While it wasn’t a perfect five years, David Beckham’s contract with the Galaxy and Major League Soccer was worth it from whatever angle you want to look at it.

By Brian Kowalski
Staff Reporter for The Daily Sports Herald


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