This was not too long ago.
“Alexi Lalas believes David Beckham’s legacy can be greater than Pele’s for football in the United States.”
Exciting times lay ahead. The crowds would come. The MLS could begin to write its epitaph as a retirement league. The LA Galaxy would be on level terms with the European super clubs. All on the strength of a single player, the most recognized athlete in the world.
It is over. Lalas the man responsible for bringing David Beckham to the MLS has been fired. Ruud Gullit has gone too. Despite Beckham’s first full season which has been very productive, the Galaxy are now in danger of missing their third consecutive playoffs.
In a sign of mounting frustration, Tim Leiwecke, chief executive of AEG, the company that manages the LA Galaxy had harsh words.
“Unfortunately, you can’t fire 22 players,” he said, a comment reflective of AEG’s considerable unhappiness with the Galaxy and the way it is underperforming. Leiweke had only recently described the team as “dysfunctional,” a description he repeated Monday.
“I think they’re all responsible,” Leiweke said of the players. “What I told them this morning was, ‘Now no one has any excuses.’ I eliminated all excuses.
Lest you think Leiweke was not sold out on the hype, here he was unfiltered on the Beckham transfer.
“David Beckham will have a greater impact on soccer in America than any athlete has ever had on a sport globally.
“David is truly the only individual that can build the ‘bridge’ between soccer in America and the rest of the world.”
There is another way of looking at Leiwecke’s moves. It is a total turnaround against the easy panacea that Beckham’s arrival would provide the sport in the US. In the end the equation is more simple. Winning is what matters. If Tim Leiwecke had two good defenders who could prevent goals he would prefer them over some glorious abstraction of ‘building a bridge’ or a ‘legacy.’ The LA Galaxy have lost eight straight matches with a defense that is leaking goals, 40 to be exact in 19 matches. If they keep losing the crowds will disappear and playing for the Galaxy might become synonymous with futile. What a climbdown from the lofty expectations a year ago.
Last season, the Galaxy fired Frank Yallop, a perfectly good coach, caught in the balance between the distractions of managing a superstar and his relationship with lesser lights with the inflated expectations that he brought to the team and to the league. Now Lalas and Gullit are gone, a visceral reminder with all its star power at its disposal, it still takes a team to win.
It is official: The Beckham hangover is over
This was not too long ago.