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GALAXY 3, NEW YORK 1

David Beckham returns and Galaxy keeps rolling

Though the English midfielder has a quiet game, the team gets goals from Eskandarian, Donovan and Lewis in a 3-1 win over the Red Bulls. L.A. has won four in a row.

July 17, 2009|Grahame L. Jones

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Giants Stadium is due to be demolished next year. One of its tenants already has been.

The New York Red Bulls, establishing a Major League Soccer standard for futility this season, were comprehensively taken apart by Landon Donovan and the Galaxy on Thursday night, losing, 3-1.

Donovan, maintaining his top-level form of late, scored one goal and set up another. Alecko Eskandarian and Eddie Lewis also scored for Los Angeles.

And David Beckham?

Well, Beckham was booed, which he said neither surprised nor bothered him. He played a central midfield role that contributed significantly to the Galaxy's control of the match, even if his movement was a bit sluggish and his free kicks were not as pinpoint or as dangerous as usual.

It was, after all, the English midfielder's first MLS game since last October and his first game of any sort since early June. He lasted 70 minutes and wanted to stick around longer.

"It's great to be back, personally," Beckham said. "It's great to be back in a team that is confident, as we showed tonight, and has got this quality.

"I'm more than happy to be back here playing, especially when we play like this tonight. I enjoyed it a lot."

The resurgent Galaxy has won four in a row and is 6-3-9 with a dozen games left in the regular season. Its playoff chances are growing with each win.

New York failed to win for the 11th straight game and is 2-14-4. On Thursday night, it fell behind after less than three minutes when Eskandarian volleyed a left-foot shot past goalkeeper Danny Cepero.

Donovan, who attended the ESPYs in Los Angeles on Wednesday night and took a red-eye flight, arriving Thursday morning, made it 2-0 with an equally powerful volley in the 31st minute.

"I'm at a place now where it doesn't matter when I arrive," Donovan said. "I know how I'm going to perform."

Just before halftime, Lewis connected on a fierce shot after taking a long cross from Donovan and the Galaxy went into the locker room three goals ahead and thoroughly in command.

New York's lone goal came in the 87th minute on a penalty kick by Juan Pablo Angel, who might have scored a second penalty moments later but was thwarted by Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.

So much for the bare bones of the match, which really was more about Beckham's return to MLS than anything else.

When he first played for the Galaxy at Giants Stadium in 2007, a crowd of 66,237 showed up at the Meadowlands. Last year, that number dropped to 46,754. This time, there were only 23,238 in the stands.

Part of that is the economy. Part of it is the rapidly unraveling Red Bulls. Part is the fact that the Beckham buzz is not what it used to be, perhaps due to his loan spell with AC Milan and the negative comments he made there about MLS.

Whatever the reason, he seemed pleased to be back and Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena was even happier.

"I became a better coach with the addition of David Beckham," Arena said, "and I thought Landon Donovan was fabulous tonight."

The booing was treated almost as a joke.

"I would think he's been booed before," Arena said. "I think this is almost a pleasant environment for him tonight. . . . He can deal with a little booing here."

Beckham said it was almost a positive.

"It's sometimes nice to get the boos," he said. "It gives you some inspiration. When we play like we did and win like we did, the boos start to go away after a while."

There were no residual effects from the Donovan-Beckham spat of a week ago, and the two even exchanged hugs after one of the Galaxy goals.

Beckham is back, and the Galaxy is the better for it.

"He's got a great attitude, he's fit right in the group and brought a healthy spirit," Arena said. "It's not easy for him with the scrutiny, and I thought that performance was pretty impressive."

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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