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At whose Beckham and call?
by Ridge Mahoney, March 11th, 2008 2PM

TAGS:  mls


So spoke Galaxy president and general manager Alexi Lalas in January, while David Beckham trained with Arsenal and speculation swirled regarding his possible selection for a friendly against Switzerland and possibly his 100th cap:

"First, I know what it means to represent your country, and second, for David Beckham not only what it means for him represent his country but what it means for his country," said Lalas, responding to a question of whether at some point the Galaxy might "suggest" to Beckham he stick around rather than fly thousands of miles. "We see it every day, it's magnified.

"Despite the travel and the wear and tear, I don't think it's my place or any of our places, yet, to make that request. Having said all that, if playing with the national team wasn't something that he wanted to continue to do, I wouldn't try to talk him out of that. I don't know what he has in mind or what the future holds."

By not calling up Beckham to face the Swiss last month, Englkand coach Fabio Capello defused the situation. Temporarily. He primed the pump again last week by stating Beckham could well be part of the squad he summons for England's next international, a March 26 match against France. Either Capello, or one of his assistants, will most likely scout Beckham when the Galaxy plays FC Dallas this weekend at Pizza Hut Park.

The match falls just three days prior to the MLS opening weekend that features the Galaxy against the Rapids on Fox Soccer Channel as part of a historic televised doubleheader. A few days later is the Galaxy home opener against re-born rival San Jose, which is the first ESPN2 Thursday night telecast of the season April 3.

Setting aside the powerful TV ratings pull of Becks On Screen, one might think this is the time for the league leader in celebrities and glitter to put its competitive game face on, to push substance ahead of style, for Lalas to pull rank on mega-agent Simon Oliviera and tell the glamorous midfielder that for $27 million-plus per season, it needs him playing every possible competitive match as fresh and fit as possible.

If that rankles Signore Capello and irks the Great Becks himself, too bad. Right?

Teams, especially English teams, do this to players, particularly American players, all the time. Fixture dates are to be ignored if at all possible. So why can't the Galaxy pull the same ploy, in reverse?

Ah, if only it were that simple.

Putting its foot down on Beckham would imply the Galaxy shouldn't release Landon Donovan for a U.S. match against Poland on the same day for the same reasons. That game, too, will require travel to Europe. Donovan took himself out of the Copa America lineup last summer; why not cite obligations to his club at a critical time of the season, the need to bond with teammates, etc., this time as well?

U.S. coach Bob Bradley could certainly field a competitive team without Donovan. (Perhaps he can cite the patella tendonitis for which Donovan has been receiving treatment.) But that could trigger yet another firestorm unless Donovan clearly isn't fit: Every MLS coach clamoring to keep his players.

Bradley would then have to either pick his team irrespective of the effects on league teams, or leave all of the domestics at home and go Euro. I hope he does the latter, and not because of any MLS-centric philosophy.

The international date falls just days after the conclusion of Olympic qualifying, for which Coach Peter Nowak will field only a handful of his overseas players. A deal has been brokered with West Ham United, for example, by which Jonathan Spector didn't to join the U.S. national team to face Mexico last month but will be released for the Olympic qualifying knockout matches that precede the March 26 fixture date.

With several Olympic prospects as well as a solid fleet of senior internationals playing overseas, leaving the domestics at home and using an all-Euro squad against Poland is certainly feasible.

As the per the general theme of MLS teams trying to block the selection of their players, seldom does the lobbying erupt into the public sector, aside from the splutterings of Revs coach Steve Nicol being stripped of five or six players in the days he had Clint Dempsey and Pat Noonan as well as Taylor Twellman, et al., or the consternation of Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo losing his central duo of Pablo Mastroeni and Kyle Beckerman (prior to Beckerman's move to Real Salt Lake last year). But there's always some give and take behind the scenes.

Playing against Poland, or France for that matter, on March 26 wouldn't rule out a player answering the bell on opening weekend, assuming he came through the match unscathed.

Players in all sports must endure the rigors of fatigue and jet lag, yet the demands loaded on continentally hopping soccer players are certainly unique, as many American players - and Beckham - have proved by wobbling through matches upon returning from international duty.

Let's hope Beckham gets the call, earns his 100th cap and comes out of the game unscathed, pleased to get it done and over with and re-focused on club glory, at least until the May 28 match against the USA at Wembley, when the process can start anew.

  1. David Hardt
    commented on: March 11, 2008 at 3:04 p.m.
    Well said. He should not be treated any different than any other player that maybe called up to their national squads. This is were the MLS will find it difficult in the years to come with mainly summer play.

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