All eyes at the Home Depot Center on Saturday night were focused on the Galaxy bench, where David Beckham sat and waited.
And waited. And waited. And waited some more.
Finally, with only 20 minutes left in what turned out to be a 3-1 Galaxy victory over the Columbus Crew, Coach Bruce Arena made his move, signaling for the English midfielder to make his 2010 season debut.
Beckham milked the moment. He took off his blue Galaxy warmup jacket. He stripped off his yellow T-shirt, showing his many and varied tattoos to oohs and aahs from fans seated behind the Galaxy bench. He pulled on his white Galaxy jersey. He made sure his red boots were fastened.
Beckham jogged to the sideline and waited for Juninho, the Brazilian midfielder he was replacing, to come off the field. They slapped hands and then No.23 loped into a competitive game for the first time since March 14, when he crumpled to the ground in pain while playing on loan for AC Milan in Italy.
For those wondering why it took until September for the 35-year-old, $6.5-million-a-year man to appear on the field in a Galaxy jersey, remember that he has been recovering for six months from a torn left Achilles' tendon suffered on that March day.
The fact that he got any time at all was a surprise, Arena having said in midweek that it was "not likely" that Beckham would play.
But Beckham got his way, as is often the case, and apparently enjoyed the "careful few minutes" he had said Thursday that he hoped to receive.
The game was tucked away and put to bed at 3-0 by the time he made his entrance, of course, but no matter. He was welcomed with a huge cheer by the 19,482 on hand.
Beckham's wait on and off the bench had been a case study in impatience and he had talked often during his recovery of the frustration he felt while sidelined. It was evident again Saturday. Rather than sitting quietly and waiting his chance, he was up and down like a yoyo.
He was more or less calm until Edson Buddle put Los Angeles ahead in the 13th minute. The goal apparently caused Beckham to believe that he would get into the game because halfway through the half he got up and began stretching his leg muscles while walking backward and forward on his heels and toes, thereby drawing the attention of a sideline TV cameraman.
By the time Dema Kovalenko doubled the Galaxy's lead with his first goal since May 2008, in the 35th minute, Beckham was on his feet with the other reserves, smiling and applauding. Now, surely, he would get into the game. Alas, he'd have to wait a little longer.