Los Angeles Soccer: Melbourne Victory
Now we're left to wait, a few weeks probably, before we learn whether David Beckham will return to the Galaxy, a decision he says he'll make during Christmas break with his family.
If his deliberations lead to Paris Saint-Germain, then he wrapped up his tenure with L.A. with a string of stunning performances, the last in his finale, an entertaining friendly Tuesday against the Melbourne Victory.
Beckham was creative and vibrant, steering a Galaxy attack that finally came alive in the second half of a 2-2 draw at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. L.A., its legs weary from the long postseason trek, rallied from a two-goal deficit on two Robbie Keane penalties, then won a post-90 minute shootout from the spot.
It was a decent close to a spectacular season that began, with preseason work, way back in January, and when they regroup next month -- after about six weeks off -- so much will depend on what decision Beckham makes. He is so vital to how they attack that an offensive rethink will be necessary if he signs in France or, less likely, England.
That was apparent again Tuesday, with Beckham again dictating the Galaxy attack, delivering telling long balls, bending crosses and space-opening passes -- and, more so than usual, getting ahead in the attack and finding a few scoring chances.
Beckham's best chance came from 60 yards. A Victory giveaway in the 13th minute gave him an open path in the center circle, and seeing goalkeeper Ante Covic well off his line, he blasted a line drive that drifted left. It was almost a replica of his near-goal Saturday against the Philippines.
It's all Becks all the time around Melbourne, where the Galaxy are readying for the final game on their postseason tour of Asia and Australia.
There's the story of the mother at Royal Children's Hospital, which David Beckham visited Monday, who asked the English superstar for a kiss -- and got one.
Or the celebrity chef who set a special menu for his restaurant and made a personal appearance to meet Beckham, who decided to dine elsewhere. (Or did he?)
Beckham (and his teammates, we imagine, although most of the press suggests he's a solo act) has been busy since touching down Sunday in Melbourne, causing frenzies at the airport and in a visit to a high school, spending an hour with kids and their families at the hospital, meeting Australian Rules football star Marc Murphy, making exciting dinner plans and repeating to the Australian media what he's told everyone all year: That he hasn't decided what's next and won't decide until the season's over.
The season ends with the game late Monday night -- well, early Tuesday morning, 12:30 a.m. -- Pacific time against the A-League's Melbourne Victory in front of an expected crowd of 40,000 at Etihad Stadium.
No clue if it's Beckham's last game for the Galaxy.
“I wanted to end this season with a championship, and we did that, then I wanted some time on this tour to be able to celebrate it,” Beckham told media in Melbourne. “I haven’t actually started thinking about it yet. Once I get some down time, then I’ll start thinking what’s going to be best.
“I'm going to spend some time with the family, have a good Christmas.”
The Galaxy are a couple days into their postseason tour and about to play the first of three games, and already they're having a blast. Jakarta has been most welcoming and they found the clinic with local kids, in the stadium in which they'll battle Indonesia's national team Wednesday, quite invigorating.
A certain 90 minutes a week and a half ago gets the credit.
L.A. is looking at its tour of Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia as a celebration after clinching an MLS Cup/Supporters' Shield double with a 1-0 triumph Nov. 20 over Houston.
“I think it would have been one awful trip if we would have lost [in the MLS Cup final],” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said before the team departed California. “I think with a win we can go there in a little better frame of mind and relax and enjoy it.”
This is the fourth and most elaborate postseason trip the Galaxy has taken in David Beckham's five seasons with the club, with stops ahead in Manila (for a game Saturday against the Philippines' national team) and Melbourne (for Tuesday's finale against the Melbourne Victory), and it feels a lot different than last year's trek to Newcastle, Australia.
“It's more exciting if we won than if we lost, like last year,” defender A.J. DeLaGarza said. “Last year was terrible. We just lost to Dallas pretty bad [in the Western Conference final], and we had a long flight to Australia for just one game. Missing Thanksgiving and stuff with your family -- all those things added up.”
“We knew if we slipped up [this year], it would have been one of those trips that would have been miserable,” said midfielder Chris Birchall, who ended up skipping the trip, the team said, to deal with “non-team related matters.” “We're going to go celebrate, because I think we've worked for it, but we're over there for a reason, as well, to promote the game and promote the MLS and really have a good time and show the fans we appreciate the support worldwide.”
The Galaxy faces Indonesia's national team, with some under-23 players sprinkled in from the team that won silver at the South East Asian Games, in Wednesday's friendly at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta. (Kickoff is 4 a.m. PT; Fox Soccer Channel will televise.) Ticket sales have been slow -- promoters said only about 20,000 had been sold through Tuesday -- and fans have complained about the price of tickets for the second and third games of the tour.
It will be first of three games on a trip the Galaxy hopes will be in celebration of the club's third MLS Cup title.
L.A., carrying a 1-0 lead, plays New York in Thursday's second leg of a first-round playoff series at Home Depot Center, and they'll meet Real Salt Lake or Seattle in the Western Conference final Sunday at HDC if they hold on against the Red Bulls.
MLS Cup will be played Nov. 20 at Home Depot Center.
The Galaxy is making its fourth trip to Asia and first since 2008 for games in Indonesia and Dec. 3 against the Filipino national team in Manila. The tour closes with a Dec. 6 match against the Melbourne Victory in Australia. The Galaxy played in Australia in 2007 and 2010, losing both friendlies.
The Galaxy officially set its postseason plans Friday night, becoming the first Major League Soccer club to clinch a playoff berth with a 1-0 victory over reigning MLS Cup champion Colorado.
Now they've finalized their post-postseason plans: another trip to Australia.
The Galaxy will face the Melbourne Victory on Dec. 6 in Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, their third end-of-season trip to Australia and fourth to the region in five years, all since David Beckham's arrival.
The Victory's roster includes Harry Kewell, one of the greatest of Australian players (and a former teammate of Galaxy forward Robbie Keane's at Leeds United and Liverpool), and former D.C. United forward Danny Allsopp.
The Galaxy's history in Australia and New Zealand:
Sydney FC 5, Galaxy 3 (Telstra Stadium, Sydney; Att.: 80,295
Galaxy 4, Wellington Phoenix 1 (Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand; Att.: 31,853)
Galaxy 3, Oceania All-Stars 0 (Mt. Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand; Att.: 16,600)
Newcastle Jets 2, Galaxy 1 (EnergyAustralia Stadium, Newcastle, Australia; Att.: 23,317)