America back in love with Becks

Booed in July, the Englishman is back in favour as his Galaxy march on into the play-offs

Sometimes it is hard to disagree with Victoria Beckham's suggestion that her husband is Goldenballs. As if the century of England caps, the Champions League success with Manchester United, and the
La Liga triumph with Real Madrid were not enough, David Beckham is now on the brink of transforming the one part of his career which appeared to be a failure, his sojourn in the Los Angeles Galaxy midfield.

Off the pitch Beckham's Stateside experiment has been a qualified success. Major League Soccer is never going to threaten the NFL for TV time, or sponsors' dollars, but it has significantly raised its profile and continues to expand, as has the Beckham brand. Financially Beckham has largely paid his way through merchandising and other income. But on the pitch it had been an unmitigated disaster, with Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS Cup holders in 2005, failing even to make the end-of-season play-offs since Beckham's arrival in 2007. Last season they finished tied last in the 14-team competition.

It did not help that Beckham always seemed to be either injured or crossing the Atlantic to play for England. When he skipped town to play for Milan last year, and did not return until July after playing for England, then taking a rest, the natives turned ugly. Landon Donovan, the club's leading American, led a chorus of dressing-room criticism by questioning his commitment. Beckham was booed during his first match back, an exhibition against, ironically, Milan, even exchanging angry words with fans. Others hung banners reading "Go Home, Fraud", at the Galaxy's Carson City home. The frustration appeared to boil over as he was sent off for a reckless tackle 17 minutes into his first home league match against Seattle Sounders. He was booed off.

Three months on Beckham is loved again. Since returning he has started 11 of 13 possible matches, missing one through suspension, one through injury. Equally importantly, he has been playing well, winning over supporters and team-mates with his commitment just as he did in Madrid. The irony is that Donovan has been the catalyst for their mutual success. This week he won the club's Most Valuable Player and Golden Boot awards and Galaxy's former coach Frank Yallop, now steering San Jose Earthquakes, said: "Galaxy are well-organised and difficult to break down, but the difference is Landon. He makes a good team very good."

Beckham's first step was to cool the dispute with Donovan, which he did after their experienced coach, Bruce Arena, who led the US at the 2006 World Cup, brought them together. Their contrasting responses – "Landon apologised and I told him my view on things," said Beckham; "I believe we're getting to the bottom of things we needed to get to," said Donovan – suggested the peace was fragile but many a successful team has proved team-mates need only respect, not like each other. This seems the case as the pair have developed a formidable creative partnership which, with Arena tightening up a previously porous defence, enabled Galaxy to win the Western Conference. They are among the favourites for the play-offs which began in Seattle overnight and conclude with the MLS Cup on 22 November.

Beckham, who was pleased and relieved at his dressing-room reception, preached the mantra of teamwork and calm. "We don't want to get overconfident, that can bring things which we don't want to see. If we work hard like we have been, and keep that unity, we have a good chance."

Galaxy open their play-off campaign on Sunday with a derby match against Mexican-backed Chivas, against whom Beckham scored the only goal in a victory two months ago. Success in the two-leg tie is likely to result in a Conference final against Freddie Ljungberg's Seattle, who have been the other big story of the MLS season. A new team in the league, Seattle have broken the attendance record, averaging 33,000 in the regular season. Columbus Crew are the most likely final opposition, if Galaxy get there.

That is in the short term. Longer-term Beckham has an option to buy an MLS franchise. Seattle's success, and further expansion to Philadelphia, Vancouver and Portland by 2011, suggests a bright future for the league. By returning to favour in the US soccer community Beckham is again in position to take advantage.

MLS Cup: Key dates

Quarter-finals:

Seattle Sounders v Houston Dynamo 30 October & 8 November

Real Salt Lake v Columbus Crew 31 October & 6 November

Chicago Fire v New England Revolution 1 & 8 November

LA Galaxy v Chivas USA 1 & 9 November

Play-off contenders: Last eight

Columbus Crew

The MLS Cup holders finished top of the Eastern Conference. Coached by the former Everton winger Robert Warzycha.

Los Angeles Galaxy

Finished top of Western Conference. Midfielder Landon Donovan top scored with 12 goals.

Houston Dynamo

Co-owned by boxer Oscar De La Hoya, the Dynamo were MLS Cup winners in 2006 and 2007.

Chicago Fire

Former Fulham striker Brian McBride partners Mexico's Cuauhtemoc Blanco up front.

Seattle Sounders

Freddie Ljungberg has nine assists this season. Also field former Spurs goalkeeper Kasey Keller.

Chivas USA

Share the Home Depot Center with LA Galaxy. Coached by the former Everton winger Preki.

New England Revolution

Managed by former Liverpool defender Steve Nicol. Have been MLS Cup runners-up four times in the last seven seasons.

Real Salt Lake

Squeezed into the play-offs with a better goal difference than DC United and Colorado Rapids.

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'