At long last, Beckham arrives

(U-WIRE) LOS ANGELES – In the 78th minute of play on Saturday night, with the Los Angeles Galaxy down 1-0 to English Premier League powerhouse Chelsea, David Beckham officially arrived.

The billboards that ushered fans down Victoria and Figueroa streets toward the stadium, the posters that adorned the Home Depot Center, and the multitude of ESPN commercials suggested that Beckham was already here. But it all meant nothing until he took the field alongside his new teammates for the first time.

One small step for a man, one giant leap for American soccer.

On Saturday night, I made the trek over to Carson to watch the Galaxy take on Chelsea and to hopefully catch a glimpse of the man who might bring credibility to the sport seemingly every country but ours is enamored with.

Seeing as how I spent $120 dollars for two tickets to the game, in addition to the ridiculous $20 I paid for parking, the prospect of Beckham not playing due to his bum left ankle did not leave me in the greatest of moods.

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    But even if Beckham had not made an appearance, I would have been satisfied with my purchase due to the excitement of the game. Our seats were right behind one of the goals, about 15 rows up; the view of the game was excellent. And I was on the side Chelsea was attacking in the first half. Unsurprisingly, the talent of the Chelsea attackers and midfielders far outweighed that of the Galaxy defenders, so I was treated to an amazing display of soccer that Americans hardly ever get to the chance to see in person.

    Their passes were crisp and spot on. They moved fluidly and gracefully with the ball, never seeming to be under pressure or rushed. Each Chelsea player was constantly in motion, moving without the ball and making runs to the posts. Even the shots seemed to be fired with a touch of brilliance.

    Yet they could not score. The Galaxy defenders, much improved from their 3-0 disaster last weekend against Tigres, rose to the occasion, held Chelsea scoreless for a half, and even earned the admiration of the Chelsea players and coaching staff.

    I do not think I have ever been more excited and entertained by a 0-0 game at half in my life. And this is coming from a guy who has played his fair share of important soccer games in his life. Maybe it was the game-play itself. Or maybe it was because they showed Victoria “Posh” Beckham every 10 minutes on the Jumbotron.

    Then the second half came with the expected: Chelsea finally broke through in the 49th minute when John Terry, the current captain of the English national team, rocketed a shot that bounced off the right goal post and into the goal.

    After the goal was scored, the air in the stadium seemed to go out. Chelsea had scored, the Galaxy showed that they could not score, and Beckham was still sitting at the end of the bench.

    Just as I was getting a little restless as the Galaxy were now “attacking” on our side, I heard the roar of the crowd. I looked up and saw what I had come to see: Beckham was warming up.

    Suddenly, no one in the stadium was paying attention to the game or what was happening on the field.

    Another Zidane-esque head-butt or bicycle-kick, upper-V goal could have happened, and no one would have noticed. All eyes were either on Beckham jogging and stretching or on the Jumbotron, which showed Beckham jogging and stretching.

    The 78th minute came, and with it, the landing of Beckham, what the 27,000 in attendance were waiting for. Sure, he only played for a total of 16 minutes and 19 seconds, and it was apparent the entire time that he was limited by his left ankle.

    But in those brief 16 minutes, Beckham gave a preview of the qualities that we can expect from him for the next five years.

    His 40-yard first pass that magically found the head of a Galaxy attacker showed the skill he is bringing to Major League Soccer.

    His determination to go hard into a tackle even with a bad ankle showed his grit and passion.

    His corner kick showed what he is famous for: the beautifully bending arc of his boot.

    It was short and brief, but Beckham’s time Saturday night revealed a lot.

    It revealed that Beckham is a team player, not a scorer. It revealed that Beckham will raise his team’s level of play. And, finally, it revealed that Beckham had an impact and made soccer interesting to many Americans.

    If only for 16 minutes and 19 seconds.