Monday, July 20, 2009

David Beckham vs. MLS : American Soccer Comes Of Age

US soccer came of age in a big way this summer.

Most will point out to the fact that Team USA took a huge step when losing 3-2 to Brazil in the final of the Confederations Cup, and they would be right to a point. But the display given to David Beckham by his own fans, shows that US soccer fans have taken a massive stride and grown up too.

There aren't many great rivalries in US soccer, not like you get around the world. But hey, the MLS is only young, so the deep rooted hatred that has simmered for 100 years between fans of clubs like Liverpool and Manchester United hasn't had time to grow.

And as US soccer fans, who really love the sport, try to explain to their couch ensconced American sport loving friends that one of the reasons for following soccer and for being so devoted to the foreign game is the banter between fans, the songs about opponents, and the atmosphere the game can generate.

In this regard, US soccer evolved in leaps and bounds.

Brand Beckham, had returned from his sojourn in northern Italy with AC Milan, and amidst rumour after rumour, was expected to go back and sign for the San Siro giants.

But Milan are nobodies fools. And with Beckham out of contract later in the year, they refused to play hard ball with the moneymen of the LA Galaxy.

So DB23 returned home.

Landon Donavan, one of the stars of US soccer, and a team mate of our David, recently spoke out on Beckham's un—professionalism at looking for a transfer back to Milan.

Nothing to do with the fact that if Donavan was good enough he'd fly over himself on wings constructed from football boots, especially if a team like Milan came in for him, and that that opportunity has not come knocking in some time.

But that's another days work.

No, US soccer fans did themselves proud today.

They've waited for this situation to arise for years. They've waited patiently, they've looked at United fans goading Man City fans, seen Arsenal fans dance when their closest rivals Spurs win nothing.

Wanting, needing, pleading for their time to come.

Well, it came and went, and didn't they do well.

If fuel was needed for the fire, Donavan added it, but surely the management at LA Galaxy knew exactly what they were doing when they arranged David Beckham's first game back in a Galaxy jersey against AC Milan?

In front of a sold out crowd at the Home Depot Arena, LA Galaxy drew 2—2 with AC Milan.

But DB23's every touch was booed, by his own fans. They jeered, they shouted, they sang songs, they got the chance to call a player Judas, no opportunity was missed by the fans who had waited years for the chance to show some true football vitriol.

And as the game moved into it's dying moments, Beckham, surprisingly responded to one particular group of fans.

As they hurled further abuse at the ex—Manchester United, ex—Real Madrid, ex—AC Milan player, he called for one particular fan to come down to him.

The fans had got the moment they had waited so patiently for. Years in the making, they had got to a player, and not just any player. The player who stands for everything that US soccer is not.

Ironically, Beckham was the best player on the pitch. Head and shoulders above anyone else, as he set up both Galaxy goals!

At the end of the day, David Beckham's move to America was ill advised, and entirely based on the fact that he thought his days at the top were numbered and that he was going out to stud.

We all know that things worked out differently, Becks was called back into the England fold, gained a few more caps, and had to play at a higher level that the MLS to secure his place in the England world cup squad.

Fellow pros, recognise this as a mere fact of life, you play at the highest level you can, for as much money as you can earn.

The plain truth of the matter is that David Beckham still has a year or two left in his legs. Clubs like Chelsea, Tottenham, and AC Milan are still interested in acquiring his services, and with that in mind the MLS will lose it's most famous son, sooner rather than later.

But what will that fans do?

They've taken a big step forward. Vitriolic hatred and goading of players, especially opposing players is part of the game. And now that they've come this far, they can't go backwards, surely?

US soccer has come on big time in this new MLS age. The game is getting better. Players are getting better, wages are improving, and the fans are embracing all the parts of the game, ugliness included.

It's what makes it the beautiful game.

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