CARSON -- It's time for the Galaxy's annual Fourth of July festivities, but David Beckham is a no-show after some fireworks last weekend. Might Omar Gonzalez's return make up for his absence?
L.A.'s biggest name will miss Wednesday night's match against the Philadelphia Union at Home Depot Center after picking up a stoppage-time yellow card in last weekend's loss at San Jose, but Gonzalez has been activated from MLS's Disabled List and will be available for the game.
Beckham's caution was his sixth of the season and triggered an automatic one-game suspension for accumulation, and more games on the sideline could be coming later this week.
As the Galaxy starts to awaken from their slumber -- they took a three-game winning streak, marked by diversely strong performances, into Saturday night's defeat -- the last thing they need is the man who runs their attack sitting games out.
“Any time you lose your best player, it's going to hurt,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said as L.A. prepared for Philly. “It's part of the game, but we obviously wish we had him. We've got guys who will step in and do a good job.”
It was inevitable that Beckham would serve a yellow-card suspension -- he did so twice last year -- after picking up four yellow cards in a six-game span during April and May. The fifth means a one-game ban, and Beckham had erased one of his with three clean games before picking up cards in each of the last two games.
“Actually, David started the season with a lot of cards right in the beginning, and I think he's done fairly well since then,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “Certainly, when you start off with four yellow cards in the first four games, or close to it, you're going to be dealing with suspension at some point.”
Arena is mistaken on the specifics: Beckham didn't pick up his first caution until L.A.'s seventh game and has been carded six times in his last 10 league appearances. Saturday's card was totally unnecessary.
Beckham, frustrated as Sam Cronin sat prone in front of the Earthquakes' goal during a stoppage, seemingly trying to waste away the game's final seconds, twice booted balls from the left wing toward the San Jose midfielder. The second ball struck Cronin and ricocheted off referee Hilario Grajeda, who pulled the yellow.
In the pushing and shoving that ensued, Beckham got to face-to-face with a couple of Quakes, at one point lowering his head into that of Quakes midfielder Rafael Baca, the former Loyola Marymount All-American from Lawndale. When the final whistle blew moments later, Beckham had to be prevented from going after San Jose midfielder Khari Stephenson.
Arena called Beckham's actions “a lack of discipline, for sure,” and Donovan observed that such things happen in the heat of battle.
“Everybody has moments where they get frustrated and do things,” Donovan said. “I'm sure he's not proud of it, but whatever. That's part of the game, and you've got to move on.”
Beckham has not addressed the media in more than a week.
Mike Magee picked up a one-game suspension after he was yellow-carded for throwing the ball in frustration in the general direction of referee Silviu Petrescu during the Galaxy loss at Houston in May. FC Dallas star Brek Shea picked up a three-game ban after kicking a ball in frustration at a linesman earlier this season.
MLS's disciplinary committee will make a ruling -- or ignore all of it -- in time for L.A.'s game Sunday at Chicago. Three or four games in all would seem reasonable.
Gonzalez was activated Tuesday, at least a few weeks before the move was expected. He says his surgically repaired left knee feels good and that he's able to do everything in practice, but that teammates haven't yet tested him fully -- and he's OK with that. Hardly talk that breeds confidence in his ability to step into an MLS game.
Gonzalez might make L.A.'s 18-man game roster for Wednesday, but he's officially listed as "questionable," and it appears too early to throw him out onto the field. Soon, yes, and that can only help a club that has struggled most of the season.
The Galaxy had found momentum with successive wins over Portland, Real Salt Lake and Vancouver, but San Jose's rally to win after falling behind by two goals took care of that.
“If you don't win the game, I don't call that momentum,” said Arena, singled out goalkeeper Josh Saunders and left back Todd Dunivant for criticism following the loss. “The performance was OK. It think it was a sloppy game, mistakes were made by both teams -- obviously, we made one too many, I think. Two too many. We had a few individual breakdowns on set pieces that cost us the game.”
Said Donovan: “We did a lot of good things on Saturday. Three weeks ago we would have had no chance to win that game, and we should've won that game. We know what we did wrong. ... We're not going to lose too much sleep over that. We've got to keep going.”
END OF THE LINE: Adam Cristman retired Tuesday following bouts with concussions. He has been sidelined a couple of times this year and has been on the MLS Disabled List since May 25 after a recurrence.
“The concussions I have suffered this year have forced me to retire,” the 27-year-old forward said in a statement. “While this is not the way I wanted to leave the game, I am excited for what the future holds as I transition into the next phase of my life.”
Cristman joined the Galaxy in a 2011 trade from D.C. United, made 11 MLS regular-season appearances last year, three more in the playoffs, five in the CONCACAF Champions League and two in the U.S. Open Cup, with three goals across all competitions and three more in five friendlies. He made just two first-team appearances this year.
WORTH NOTING: Cronin's take on Beckham's meltdown? “I don't know what their guys were upset about,” he told the Bay Area News Group. “I guess [it was] me taking a little extra time on the ground. I wasn't trying to waste time or anything. I was just getting up and getting a rest. [Grajeda] wasn't going to add any extra time on anyway, so I think it was a competitive game and tempers were flaring.” ... The Galaxy leads the series, 3-0-1, and has won both HDC meetings. ... L.A. is 1-4-1 against Eastern Conference teams this year, the only win against first-place D.C. United. ... Juninho will be suspended with his next yellow card. Philly's Gabriel Gomez is in the same situation.
Head coach: John Hackworth
Key players: M Freddy Adu, M Roger Torres, M Brian Carroll, D Bakary Soumare, D Carlos Valdes, M Gabriel Gomez, F Lionard Pajoy, F Diego Chara.
Local guys: M/D Gabriel Farfan (Wildomar/Cal State Fullerton), M Michael Farfan (Wildomar/Cal State Fullerton), F Chandler Hoffman (UCLA), M Amobi Okugo (UCLA), plus former Galaxy defender Chris Albright and former Chivas USA winger Michael Lahoud.
Update: The Union are transitioning from Peter Nowak's turbulent reign, which ended in mid-June after the Polish coach's roster remake finally went too far. He kept unloading veteran talent and leadership and fan favorites, without a whole lot of return, and Hackworth, his top assistant, took charge as interim with a lot of ground to make up. He lost his opener to D.C., then dominated sporting Kansas City, 4-0, before falling last weekend at Houston. Philly has lost six of its last eight games and is winless in its last four on the road.
Out: D Andrew Boyens (sports hernia), F Edson Buddle (right knee surgery), M Dan Keat (right knee surgery), D Leonardo (right knee inflammation).
Questionable: D Omar Gonzalez (left ACL tear), M Kyle Nakazawa (back spasms), F Pat Noonan (right quad strain).
Out: F Chandler Hoffman (teft big-toe fracture), D Bakary Soumare (right knee meniscus recovery), F Krystian Witkowski (concussion symptoms).
Probable: D Sheanon Williams (right big-toe fracture).
Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m.
Referee: Armando Villarreal
TV: KDOC/Channel 56 (English) and KWHY/Channel 22 (Spanish)
Radio: ESPN Deportes (KWKW-AM/1330, Spanish)