Nearly 67,000 fans came out to see this match and they were not disappointed. David Beckham came out to play and put on a tantalizing display of dead ball precision. The man that all the fans had come out to watch seemed fired up and feisty. It helped because this match was much anticipated nationally. Three Beckham guided lasers zeroed onto their man and the LA Galaxy matched the NY Red Bulls in a pulsating ding dong battle. It was heading towards a draw till Angel pulled the winner out for NY in stoppage time. It was great theater.
To put it in context, the defence was shoddy and the goalkeeping at times was terrible, although Joe Cannon pulled off some spectacular saves. A few of Beckham's passes were errant and one led to a Jozy Altidore goal.
He was also guilty of very poor defending standing in the box with Van den Bergh moving the ball around the LA defence that led to the Mathis volley. On another occasion he lost the ball to Mathis almost leading to a goal. My player of the match was Jozy Altidore. He is powerful, quick, uses both feet, although more comfortable with the left, has a cannon shot, and is technically a very sound player. His second goal was a beauty.
What does this match augur for the future? We see this as an event because in its star power, intensity, number of fans and goals scored, it was unparalleled. There have been very few games like this. I think it does one immediate thing and that is take off pressure instantly from Alexi Lalas and Frank Yallop for the hitherto no show Beckham, providing some vindication. Does it save the LA Galaxy from the cellar? No. The Galaxy has a porous defence and that is something Beckham can do very little about. The match also does not solve the problem of his chronically injured ankle that will limit Beckham to a match time decision and impact his future.
The bigger question. Does this mean it is going to become sexy for people to come out and watch MLS? An additional 45,000 came to see the match because of Beckham. A number of them were what the English would dismiss as the prawn sandwich brigade opportunistically following a fashionable phenomenon. They will not show up for the next match. But that would be entirely missing the point out here.
From the standpoint of MLS viability, Beckham is akin to a conduit. It is in players like Jozy Altidore wherein lies the saliency of the MLS. In a big match like this drawing national attention because of Beckham, Altidore’s performance spotlighted what the future MLS brings to the fans. For a number of those who had come to stargaze Beckham, Altidore’s performance would have been an eye opener, a display of Deion Sanders like athletic grandeur. The type of display that make fair-weather fans want to come back for more because of the type of player he is. A gradual uptick in the attendance would be a great achievement.