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The Beckham Era Begins
by Ridge Mahoney, July 23rd, 2007 7AM
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He debuted. He played. He didn't get hurt, or at least, didn't apparently injure himself any further. Now what? Now that Chelsea won, and the Galaxy lost, and David Beckham has been officially presented in a match of that hoary 1-0 scoreline, can American soccer resume normal behavior?

Of course not. There's no going back, the072307photoRubicon has been crossed, ne'er the twain shall meet. It's a brave new world.

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who once had a stadium named after him in his native Austria, came to the game. So did NBA star Kevin Garnett. Jennifer Love Hewitt was on the sideline, although not working the ESPN telecast, since there were at least seven other talking heads talking away to cover whatever the 19 cameras - including one focused on Becks, or his ankle, as the case may be - might have missed.

But that's what the big time, or what passes for it in this proud nation, entails. Excess. Overkill. A bit of insight, a bag of nonsense. But best of all, buzz.

His 15 minutes - the final 12 of regulation and three added-on at Home Depot Center Saturday - inspired his downtrodden teammates long before he stepped on the field and they'd fallen behind to a left-footed drive by Chelsea captain, heart, and soul John Terry.

For one of the few times in the past season and a half, there were Galaxy players flying into tackles, winning savage aerial duels, tracking runners, scraping up loose balls.

They weren't nearly as crisp and precise and smooth as their opponents, yet they were nearly their equal for much of the 90 minutes.

Abel Xavier's flick of a driven Landon Donovan free kick forced a fine save by Chelsea keeper Peter Cech; Donovan missed the target with a header from an excellent cross by Kirk; and Kyle Martino wasted a similar serve by Cobi Jones.

Otherwise, the boys in blue booted around the ball almost at will. But of a 25-5 shot barrage, only six reached the frame. Xavier, Ty Harden, Pete Vagenas and Jones threw their bodies down, and Joe Cannon sharply saved a few that did get through.

Becks didn't bend one into the top corner, or unerringly onto the head of a goal-bound teammate, but despite his gimply left ankle, he served a nice long ball onto the head of Quevas Kirk - the player who'd given up No. 23 to the megamillionaire import - and sent in a trademark corner kick.

Those majestic balls prompted oohs and ahhs and excited squeals and flashing cameras.

What the Becks must bring to solve the soccer side of the equation is more than class and experience and glamour. It is what defender Abel Xavier has brought since joining up a month ago: Commitment. "I am sure from now until the end of the season, the team will react positively," said Xavier, who for much of his career toiled in the English Premier League. "Now we know the level we have to play at.

"If there is one player in all my career I would like to play with him, it is David Beckham."

In that regard Xavier is not alone. Starting Tuesday against Pachuca in the SuperLiga, the Galaxy must find ways to win, with Beckham, or without him.

 



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