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Not your average friendly match
David Beckhams debut for LA Galaxy, in a friendly against Chelsea — a 12 minute appearance as a substitute gingerly nursing a sore ankle — at least turned the attention away from the celebrity and business angle of his arrival in Major League Soccer and towards the field of play.
Not entirely, of course, because the television cameras spent a good deal of time celeb spotting in the crowd and ESPN viewers were treated to interviews with the likes of actress Jennifer Love Hewitt and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and constant shots of Victoria Beckham in her sunglasses chatting with Eva Longoria and Katie Holmes.
But that glitz is part of the plan. Galaxy chief Alexi Lalas popped up at half-time in the television coverage bubbling about the glamour but he was smart enough to make sure he thanked the loyal Galaxy fans who were turning up at the Home Depot Center long before ‘Becksmania’. (One of those fans has a few sharp comments here)
What impressed this viewer was the way that the Galaxy approached the game. It was certainly not the tippy-tappy stuff of friendly games (or exhibition matches as they are called in the States).
LA played the game with a lot of passion. I think maybe they waited to show David Beckham they have a team,” Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho told reporters.
“They were highly motivated and they gave us a hard game. I think this is the correct attitude to play football. If they continue doing this, they will get results and they will improve.”
They were indeed fired up but there seemed to be something more about their determination than just wanting to put on a good show for their new team-mate.
Matt Dickinson in The Times (of London) says this: Embarrassed by recent performances, the Galaxy had taken the ‘pub team’ insult to heart and they unexpectedly made a contest of it. Chelsea might have scored three or four on top of John Terrys strike but the Galaxy had their chances.
The pub team comment had come from the British press and a collection of the criticisms was reported by our soccer editor Mike Collett here.
The silliness of an unfit Beckham jogging around for a few minutes aside, it has been a pretty positive week for the image of Major League Soccer. The MLS All Stars (or a league representative side as such outfits are called in the UK) showed plenty of motivation and more as they beat Celtic on Thursday, looking impressively together for a team put together a few days before the match.
Soccer fans over here tell me that the amount of media coverage given to the game in the past week has been unprecedented. The question now is can the momentum be maintained?
With basketball and American football still in close season, this is an ideal chance for the MLS to have a few weeks of prime-time promotion. Can they take the opportunity?