[MLS] Some time this week, perhaps as early as Thursday, David Beckham will drive to Home Depot Center in one of his luxury vehicles and train with the Galaxy for the first time this year. He trained for the last time on Monday with Tottenham, where he stayed an extra few weeks despite Spurs and the Galaxy failing to agree on a loan deal.
There’s been nothing announced by the Galaxy in regards to a fine for refusing to report for preseason training, as would be obligatory for just about any other superstar athlete without extenuating circumstances beyond that of what David wants to do, he does.
How this sits with his coaches and teammates won’t be known for a while, but if they take the lead of Landon Donovan, the issue will be closed if he trains hard and plays well. Donovan surely wants to avoid the farcical soap opera of the 2007 and 2008 seasons, when whatever could go wrong, did go wrong, and the occasional flare-ups since.
“The only person who knows what’s going on and what the real story is, is David,” said Donovan last week from Arizona, where the Galaxy trained until Tuesday. “You have to assume he’s doing what he feels is best to get ready for the season. At the end of the day, would we love him to be here? Yes. He’s doing what he thinks is right for himself and none of us should judge that. We’ll be happy when he gets back. We’re obviously looking forward to playing with him.”
Donovan maintained the theme that in the past four years the Galaxy has played with and without Beckham for brief stints and long stretches, so his absence during preseason isn’t likely to impair team chemistry. That could be an issue had Beckham just joined MLS.
“If this was the first year, I’d say it would be,” said Donovan. "We’re used to having him here and also used to not having him here.
“It’s the same as when he and I go away with the national team, the [Galaxy] knows how to play with and without us. Last year, when I was gone during the summer, we had three wins and a loss, and the loss was a game we should have won. The team knows how to function. Whenever he gets here, he knows how to do the things he needs to do to get ready.
“We still have our core of 12, 13, or 14 guys who were here last year. We understand how he plays and I think it’ll be seamless. Well, everyone has their own individual situation, right, and for me to judge that would be hypocritical, because last year I went to Everton and played for three months and came back right before the season and nobody judged me on it.”
There’s a vast difference in those situations; Donovan’s loan to Everton was approved by MLS and the Galaxy, whereas this latest fling with Spurs rankled and embarrassed his AEG employers. Still, all has been quiet since discussions of a loan ended, though AEG president Tim Leiweke’s insistence that he blocked the loan so Beckham would be on hand for the start of preseason training utterly
failed to accomplish that objective. The deal died when Tottenham and AEG couldn’t come to terms regarding compensation and insurance premium payments; suspicions that AEG deliberately set the bar so high it knew Spurs would balk aren’t incorrect, according to a source.
Donovan insists none of that will affect him and his teammates. “David is a good human being and I think he genuinely cares about our team,” he says. “People may think otherwise but he makes our team better. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you and tell you our team chemistry is better when he’s not here.
“We would certainly be gaining something if we had him here for the past few weeks but he’s still going to be here three-plus weeks before the season starts. That’s plenty of time from a team-bonding standpoint to get things right.”
According to Donovan, this isn’t a case of a jaded, older player delaying his arrival as long as possible to avoid the severe fitness and preparation regiment of preseason. He expects Beckham to display the zeal and desire that spurred him to recover from a torn Achilles' tendon in time to play seven games at the tail end of last season, which upped his appearances in MLS matches (including playoffs) to 55.
“The thing about David that’s actually different from a lot of the other older guys is that he genuinely loves to play,” says Donovan. “You can see it. He trains like he’s a 20-year-old and he’s trying to make the team. That’s infectious; guys see that and guys like that. We’re very fortunate that we have that and our goal is helps us the entire year and contribute consistently, like he has when he’s had a good run of games for us. He can be a big help for us.
“Whenever he gets here, he knows how to do the things he needs to do to get ready.”