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Beckham's effect on team is the great unknown

He won't play for the Galaxy until August, and chemistry will be difficult to gauge given others' scheduled absences.

January 12, 2007|Jim Barrero | Times Staff Writer

David Beckham's arrival to Los Angeles figures to be greeted with the pomp and circumstance usually associated with a Hollywood movie star on the red carpet at the Academy Awards.

But will it result in this leading man hoisting a shiny gold statue -- in this case the MLS Cup -- come November?

The announcement Thursday of Beckham's deal with Major League Soccer and the Galaxy already has stirred intense interest in team merchandise and ticket sales around the league, and is expected to open up other untold revenue streams.

The bigger question, though, is what Beckham's presence will mean on the field and how his influence will affect the Galaxy's approach next season and beyond.

"He is going to do very well here," Galaxy Coach Frank Yallop told England's Sky Sports. "He is coming here at the peak of his career. He is ready to make a real impact on and off the field, and we are going to enjoy it."

It may be difficult to gauge how Beckham will fit in because of this year's unusually crowded international schedule that will keep as many as eight Galaxy players away from the team for significant periods, including forward Landon Donovan and defender Chris Albright.

The United States national team has two major tournaments this summer -- the CONCACAF Gold Cup, June 6-24, and the Copa America in Venezuela, June 26-July 15. There's also the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Canada, June 30-July 22. Galaxy goalkeeper Joe Cannon, forwards Nate Jaqua, Cornell Glen and Quavas Kirk, and defenders Ante Jazic and Nathan Sturgis might also miss time, so chemistry could wane.

The Galaxy missed the playoffs in 2006 for the first time in its 11-year history, sinking to an 11-15-6 record. Chemistry issues, with players absent during a World Cup year, were at the heart of the struggles.

Beckham won't play for the Galaxy until August, and by then the team will be at full strength and looking to close strong.

Yallop said his preliminary plan is to get the ball to Beckham in the middle as much as possible and allow him to create.

Beckham's presence is sure to free up Donovan to become more of a true goal scorer. Although he led the Galaxy with 12 goals last season, Donovan also shouldered the burden of playmaker and figures to welcome not having to be everywhere at once.

Cobi Jones will be displaced from his usual right midfield spot because of Beckham, although the Galaxy veteran could become part of a solid one-two punch in the midfield.

Ultimately, Beckham's value might be in his ability to lift the level of play around him.

"When you have a player of David Beckham's status and stature, the minute he steps on the field people for whatever reason ... start wanting to impress and playing above and beyond," Galaxy General Manager Alexi Lalas told

"That's a good thing."


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