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His debut done, Becks faces staggering task
by Ridge Mahoney, August 10th, 2007 6:45AM
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TAGS:  mls


becks debut2The MLS debut of David Beckham harshly illustrated the incongruities plaguing his new team and what he perhaps can do to resolve its myriad problems.

During a runout of about 20 minutes in a 1-0 loss to D.C. United at RFK Thursday, he swerved a threatening free kick that produced a good chance, and flighted another immaculate ball into space that on another night would have yielded a goal or a penalty kick rather than a spectacular defensive play.

Sparked by Beckham and a fresh pair of forwards following a straight red-card to Kyle Martino for nailing Fred from behind, Team Beckham actually looked like a soccer team, much more so than it had without him while tying Toronto, 0-0, on Sunday. Play badly and tie, play better and lose, that's soccer.

Coach Frank Yallop can take some solace in some stretches of crisp offensive play, though his back line creaked repeatedly despite the absence of Christian Gomez. Another imposing road match Sunday at New England looms, as do the pros and cons of risking Beckham, and for how long, on a FieldTurf Becks has already derided in detail.

More agonizing for Yallop are the chances his team flubbed against D.C. and the borderline calls that went against his team.

Edson Buddle fluffed one great opportunity and hit a creampuff shot along the ground right to Troy Perkins. Carlos Pavon narrowly missed with a sharp header from a driven Chris Klein cross and drove a sublime Beckham free kick a yard over the crossbar.

Twice United players pole-axed Landon Donovan in the penalty area; a courageous lunge by Perkins right at the corner of the box won a harrowing 50-50 duel fairly, but an earlier Devon McTavish challenge that sandwiched Donovan between he and Bryan Namoff could have been whistled.

Beckham played the ball out of his own half for Donovan to run onto, and prior to Klein's cross, used a few smart touches to help his team retain possession. He had begun warming up and stretching midway through the first half after sitting on the bench looking mightily perturbed, and didn't come back out of the locker room for the second half until just seconds before the kickoff. He immediately resumed his vigorous warmup as his teammates fought to get a foothold in midfield.

Heavy rain had begun pelting the field in the second half but despite the slippery surface and Martino's ejection in the 67th minute, Beckham came onto field five minutes later to a thunderous roar from 46,868 fans eager to see this page of history turned.

United should have put the game away, however, by the time Martino exited and Beckham arrived. Luciano Emilio drilled a shot through the hands of Joe Cannon in the 27th minute for his league-high 13th goal of the season but despite buzzing upfield almost at will United couldn't net the second goal.

Not all the chances in the final minutes fell to the visitor. Cannon saved blindly on a point-blank shot and turned a fierce blast from substitute Jaime Moreno over the crossbar to keep his team in the game. The Galaxy's late offensive flurry will hearten Yallop, but Emilio, Fred and Moreno carved open his team's defensive third, and that's not an area to which he can summon Beckham.

On every other account, though -- buildup, suspense, drama, thrills and spills -- this chapter in the Book of Beckham rates rave reviews.

Aug. 9 in Washington, D.C.
D.C. United 1 Los Angeles 0. Goal: Emilio (Burch) 27.
D.C. United - Perkins, Namoff (Vanney, 89), Boswell, McTavish, Burch, Olsen (Carroll, 70), Fred, Simms, Gros, Emilio, Kpene (Moreno, 46).
Los Angeles - Cannon, Klein, Harden, Xavier, Jazic, Kirk (Beckham, 72), Gray (Pavon, 77), Harmse, Martino, Donovan, Gordon (Buddle, 62).
Yellow Cards: D.C. United - Namoff 52; Los Angeles - Xavier 45.
Red Card: Los Angeles - Martino 67.
Referee: Jair Marrufo.
Att.: 46,686.



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