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.

Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
News
With its new studios in Paris, Dailymotion has reinforced its position as Europe’s most-visited website
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit