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Beckham Buzz
November 17th, 2006 5:45PM
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Ah, pity the poor souls who will be selected in the expansion draft. Whatever slim chance they had of generating any real noise outside of Toronto is being nearly drowned out by the Designated Player Frenzy, aka, the Beckham Buzz.

For nearly two years AEG president Tim Leiweke has been on the Beckham beat. Although he started a incredibly successful sports career in indoor soccer, Leiweke hasn't a clue as to formations or tactics or skills. But he knows thrills, having employed Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neil, Wayne Gretzky and Kobe Bryant in the AEG sports domain.

Skyrocketing attendances, sponsorships, publicity, and most lucratively, merchandising sales, with Becks' adorned in Galaxy attire has Leiweke's eyeballs spinning.

What he does on the field -- and it won't be trivial in any regard no matter how well or poorly he plays -- is less important than Beckham swanning about the Greater Southland, glamorous Posh in tow, smiling and mumbling and posing. The Galaxy has turned a tiny profit but Becks alone could drive the Galaxy well into the black. At least that's what one interested observer thinks.

"It would be great for MLS," says former U.S. international goalkeeper Brad Friedel, a foe of Beckham in the English Premier League prior to Beckham's move to Spain that has gone rather sour. "Whatever they have to pay for him, they'll make more than that on the business side. Just the sale of Galaxy shirts alone with his name on them would be massive. This isn't about soccer nearly as much as it is about marketing."

Comparisons to the impact of Pele signing with the Cosmos in 1975 are inevitable, though somewhat specious. Beckham's corporate impact will far exceed his influence competitively. Pele transformed both, even at age 35. Beckham is a good player, Pele was - and still is - the best in the minds of millions.

The bottom line for Becks as he ponders whether to re-sign with Real Madrid is whether he's willing to be downgraded in the British and European press, and probably by England coach Steve McLaren as well to clogger. He won't be taken seriously as a soccer player even though he's only 31 and obviously still has most of the talent he's shown for the past decade.

Roberto Donadoni was recalled by Italy after he came to MLS in 1996 but once Beckham crosses the Atlantic he can kiss his England aspirations good bye. Considering how poorly England has played since the World Cup, if McLaren hasn't called him by now, it's probably not going to happen.

TRADER MO. Probably one-half of the 10 players taken by Toronto FC in the expansion draft are bound for other clubs.

Coach Mo Johnston hinted as much in a teleconference call following the draft. He's trying to accumulate as much allocation money as possible to lure two or three Canadian national team starters from Europe. Already in tow are Jim Brennan, Marco Reda, Chris Pozniak, Adam Braz, and Greg Sutton. Only the Brennan signing has been officially announced; Johnston mentioned the other four will probably be announced next week.

After claiming Adrian Serioux from Houston, Johnston traded him to Dallas along with its second-round pick (No. 14 overall ) for midfielder Ronnie O'Brien, which seems to confirm rumors that were swirling during MLS Cup activities that FCD is going forward without Finnish midfielder Simo Valakari.

Here's what sources say are probable destinations for some of the other picks:

Danny O'Rourke and Will Hesmer will go to Columbus for a partial allocation. Crew coach Sigi Schmid needs Hesmer to fill goalkeeping voids that will be created by the impending retirement of Jonny Walker because of back problems and the uncertainty over Jon Busch, who has suffered serious knee injuries in the past two years. The Crew is due a major allocation for missing the playoffs.

Jason Kreis returns to Real Salt Lake for allocation money. RSL may have gambled that Johnston wouldn't pick Kreis and instead go for Andy Williams, who is a Canadian citizen. But Johnston grabbed Jose Cancela from New England and says he'll use Cancela as his playmaker, so Real may need to cough up money to get back one of its most popular players after just missing out on the playoffs.

Nate Jaqua, who's contract is about to expire, has stated already his desire to leave Chicago for Southern California if he doesn't find an employer in Europe, and one source said he's bound for the Galaxy for a draft pick and allocation money. That won't happen for a while, if it happens at all. He leaves at the end of the month for trials in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and Norway.

CORRECTION. The Confidential erred in stating Red Bull assistant coach Richie Williams interviewed for the vacant head coaching job in Kansas City. He is not in the running.

There are apparently at least three finalists for the Wizards' position. U.S. Soccer assistant coach Curt Onalfo, D.C. assistant Tom Soehn, and interim head coach Brian Bliss have been interviewed in the final phase of selection.

Dallas general manager Michael Hitchcock plans on speaking to approximately 10 candidates about his open head coaching position: former Mexican international Jorge Campos is on the list, as are Soehn, Onalfo and Chicago assistant Denis Hamlett


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