Los Angeles Soccer: Stuart Pearce
CARSON, Calif. -- David Beckham says he's happy to be back in Los Angeles.
He's happy to be back home with his wife and kids. He's happy to be back with his Los Angeles Galaxy teammates. He's happy to be enjoying the Olympics in London, like the rest of America, on tape delay from the comfort of his living room.
But you can tell he's not really happy, and he has every right to feel that way.
On Thursday night, Beckham was on the field at the Home Depot Center to take on his former team, Real Madrid, in front of 30,317, the largest soccer crowd ever at the stadium. It was, as expected, a lopsided affair that Madrid won 5-1. Beckham set up the Galaxy’s only goal with a picture-perfect serve off a free kick that went off the head of David Junior Lopes and past Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
Beckham, however, should be in England, preparing for Great Britain’s quarterfinal match against South Korea on Saturday.
After all, Beckham was instrumental in bringing the Olympics to London, calling it "one of the proudest moments I've been involved with." Giving one of the most famous and influential figures in English sports history a spot on the 18-man roster seemed like the right thing to do. Given the way Beckham, 37, has been playing of late, few would have seen it as a courtesy gesture. Beckham had every right to be on the team for on- and off-the-field reasons.
That is, of course, not how Great Britain manager Stuart Pearce felt in June when he opted to fill the three over-23 slots on his team with Liverpool's Craig Bellamy, Manchester City's Micah Richards and Manchester United's Ryan Giggs, who will turn 39 in November.
"Of course, I'm disappointed, but life goes on," Beckham said. "My family is healthy, I'm pretty healthy, so at the end of the day, I'll be there to support the Great Britain team."
Instead of being an Olympian at the Summer Games he helped attract to his country, Beckham played a central figure in last week’s opening ceremonies and will again play a part in the closing ceremonies. He helped bring the torch to the Olympic Stadium while wearing one of his custom suits and driving a speed boat, in a scene that looked straight out of a James Bond film.
"I was out on the boat for a few hours, so it was good," Beckham said. "I had a few days during the week so I was prepared. It was good times. … Obviously being an East End boy and growing up there, having the Olympics in that part of London is a very proud moment for us all. But it was a great experience being part of it, being part of such a historic moment for England. It was special."
The Galaxy (8-10-3) have won five of eight games since returning in mid-June from a three-week break, and they ought not to have lost the two games they've dropped in the span. Their resurgence, following a dreadful first 2 1/2 months, is all about the big names: David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane.
Chivas (6-7-5) has lost only one of its last nine league games, posted three straight shutouts -- the Rojiblancos haven't surrendered a goal in 318 minutes -- and gone 6-2-5 since mid-May, including the run to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals.
The rivals sit fifth and sixth in the Western Conference, separated by four points on the boundary for playoff berths, and every conference encounter can be a six-point swing.
Here's a look at the 27th SuperClasico showdown, Saturday at 7 p.m. at Home Depot Center in Carson:
CURRENT FORM: There's been a lot of good and a bit of bad in both teams' recent performances. They're getting results, but Chivas USA's attack is toothless, and the Galaxy has taken to outscoring opponents, or at least trying to, which leads to some grossly entertaining encounters.
L.A. just picked up seven points in a three-game road swing, and they've come from behind for three wins and a tie in the past month. Two Beckham goals fueled last weekend's 5-3 romp over Portland, and 18-year-old rookie Jose Villarreal, from Inglewood, came off the bench to score a terrific 87th-minute goal to deliver a 2-2 draw Wednesday night at Portland.
Reigning MLS Defender of the Year Omar Gonzalez's absence because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament has been debilitating all season. He returned to action in the July 4 loss to Philadelphia but hasn't played since, complaining of pain in his surgically repaired right knee.
Stuart Pearce is convinced he's made the correct decision in not including David Beckham on Great Britain's 18-man roster for the London Olympics, but that doesn't mean he has no empathy for the Galaxy star.
And there's a chance, indeed slim, that Beckham could feature after all.
“I've got a vast amount of respect for David and what he has done in bringing the Olympics to these shores,” Pearce told media Monday, when he officially announced his roster. “I have to be comfortable that I've made decisions on footballing grounds alone. Not on personality, or who I like as individuals. This is the strongest squad that's available to me to select. ...
“I feel very sorry for David. I know how much it meant to him. I do understand that.”
Beckham, who played a pivotal role in bringing the Olympics to his hometown and served in an ambassadorial role for the organizing committee, had been expected to be one of three over-23 players on the unified Great Britain roster, but Pearce opted for Liverpool's Craig Bellamy, Manchester United's Ryan Giggs and Manchester City's Micah Richards instead.
Beckham broke the news with a statement last week that he was “very disappointed” to miss out on the Olympics, “but there will be no bigger supporter of the team than me. And like everyone, I will be hoping they can win the gold.”
Said Pearce: “There's no doubt David had a burning ambition to be part of this -- he said it many times before. The other 18 players had the same burning ambition, the three overage players especially -- they have been absolutely desperate to be part of this.”
Beckham's omission was all about form, Pearce said.
“Form plays a big part, and I don't think there is a manager around who picks on sentiment,” he said at a news conference. "I have to be comfortable when I have made decisions solely on football grounds alone, nothing else. ...
“From the offset, when I sat down with the [English Football Association] chairman David Bernstein some time before Christmas, he offered me the opportunity to pick the squad. If at that stage he had said to me that certain individuals would have to be included, I certainly wouldn't do that job. I don't know any manager worth their salt who would have. Right through this process I have had carte blanche to pick whatever players I regard as best. I do enough hours watching matches, and I think I've done due diligence on all the players here.”
Pearce saw Beckham play in three Major League Soccer games before deciding to leave him out of the squad. Beckham played a vital role in bringing the Olympics to London and has played an ambassadorial role since, and it was widely assumed that he would captain the unified British team as a reward.
Beckham has not addressed the media since learning last week he would not make the Olympic team. His representative released a statement Thursday in which the Galaxy star said he was “very disappointed, but there will be no bigger supporter of the team than me.”
CARSON -- David Beckham omission for Great Britain's Olympic soccer team stunned and disappointed his teammates, who were looking forward to seeing the English icon suit up at his hometown London Games.
Beckham wasn't made available after Thursday's training session, so all we have from him is the statement his representatives released, but teammates were vocal in Great Britain manager Stuart Pearce's decision, reported widely in the British media, not to include Beckham on his 18-man roster.
“I was surprised, yes,” said Galaxy captain Landon Donovan, who played in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, helping the U.S. to the semifinals. “I think we're all disappointed. I think we probably all don't agree with the decision, but that's the way soccer is and always has been that way, and we're disappointed for David.
“You look at it in the bigger context, the opportunity to play in the Olympics in your home country is really special, and to have that taken away from you is devastating. Especially for a guy who has done so much for the sport in that country. It doesn't really make sense. But that's life.”
Beckham was informed this week that he would not be one of three overage players on Pearce's side at the London Olympics. Beckham played a crucial role in bringing the Games to his hometown and has served the organizers in an ambassadorial role. He was widely considered a shoo-in for the team, but Pearce, according to media reports in England, will instead select Liverpool's Craig Bellamy, Manchester United's Ryan Giggs and Manchester City's Micah Richards for the over-23 slots.
“Everyone knows how much playing for my country has always meant to me,” Beckham said in a statement widely disseminated Thursday. “So I would have been honored to have been part of this unique Team GB squad. Naturally, I am very disappointed, but there will be no bigger supporter of the team than me. And like everyone, I will be hoping they can win the gold.”
David Beckham will not be playing for the unified Great Britain team at the London Olympics.
Manager Stuart Pearce, who was at Home Depot Center to watch Beckham in L.A.'s 1-0 victory 11 days ago, had been expected to select the 37-year-old legend along with Liverpool's Craig Bellamy and Beckham's old Manchester United teammate Ryan Giggs as the three over-23 players for the “Team GB” men's soccer roster. Manchester City's Micah Richards is expected to get the nod instead of Beckham.
“Everyone knows how much playing for my country has always meant to me,” Beckham said in a statement. “So I would have been honored to have been part of this unique Team GB squad. Naturally, I am very disappointed, but there will be no bigger supporter of the team than me. And like everyone, I will be hoping they can win the gold.”
Beckham, who played 115 times and in three World Cups for England, had hoped to cap his career at his hometown Olympics. He played a vital role in the London organizers' bid to win the games and has served as an ambassador since. A role on Pearce's 18-man roster was expected to be his reward.
“He's been a great ambassador, but that's no guarantee he'll get in the squad. I'm picking on form and merit alone,” Pearce, who made two trips to the U.S. to scout Beckham, said in April. “David Beckham will be treated exactly the same as any other individual, whether it is young or overage. I have a duty of care to the Great Britain squad to try to win a gold medal. I will pick the strongest squad I can.”
The Olympic men's soccer tournament is for under-23 teams, but each nation may include three overage players.
Beckham is expected to have a role at the July 27 opening ceremonies.
David Beckham is going to the Olympics.
That's the word according to English tabloid Daily Mail, which reported Thursday that it “can reveal that the Leytonstone-born England icon is included in the Great Britain squad Stuart Pearce will submit to FIFA, ending fevered speculation over his participation.”
Pearce is to submit Friday a shortlist of 35 players to FIFA, and The Telegraph, a British broadsheet, reported that “it is understood that Beckham has not only been included but will survive the cut to become an Olympian.”
Both reports are unsourced, but Beckham, the Galaxy's midfield leader, is considered a strong bet for one of three-overage slots on the 18-man roster for the London Olympics, for which the soccer competition begins July 26, the day before the opening ceremonies.
Beckham, 37, was part of the team that campaigned to bring the Olympics to his hometown and has served in an ambassadorial role since. He left the Galaxy last month to accompany the Olympic flame from Athens to Cornwall, where the torch relay across Britain began.
There has been criticism in Britain that Beckham's inclusion would be solely about his celebrity -- his ability to fill seats and sell souvenirs -- and he bristled about it with the British press while in England last month.
“I have never said it before, but that suggestion has always felt a bit disrespectful,” he said. “Whenever I have been asked about shirt sales or filling stadiums, it has always felt it is a bit disrespectful. Throughout my career, I have been pretty successful, I’ve played for some pretty big teams, represented my country quite a few times, and played for managers without sentiment.
“When you play for Sir Alex Ferguson, Fabio Capello, Sven Goran Eriksson or the [other managers] that I have played under, they don’t pick players because they want to fill a stadium or particularly to sell shirts. I have always found it an honor that people have wanted to buy my shirt and an honor that fans turn up to watch the team I am playing in. I have always found that a huge honor. But no, I don’t want to be picked for shirt sales or as a stadium-filler. I want to be picked for what I can bring to the team.
“That has been the case throughout my career, and I don’t want that to change.”
CARSON -- The Galaxy lost five games all of the 2011 Major League Soccer season, and two of those were giveaways, with B sides sent in to absorb defeat in New York at the end of a insane stretch in early October and in the season finale at Houston a few weeks later.
They matched that total Sunday in just their ninth game, another hapless display in front of the net costing them plenty in a 1-0 defeat to the New York Red Bulls, who scored an early goal, then bunkered in and survived a second-half onslaught to escape with the points.
“It's a bit of a broken record,” head coach Bruce Arena said, then did his best impression, mentioning 11 times in eight minutes that the Galaxy had “enough chances to create [enough] goals” to win, or words to that effect. Chances are all well and good, but when they're not put away, things go wrong.
Things are going very wrong for L.A. (3-5-1, 10 points), which has lost three of six league home games and sit a dozen points -- four victories -- behind San Jose and Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference standings.
Ryan Meara made four big saves and the Red Bulls (5-3-1, 16 points) defended with vigor, but it's the Galaxy's lack of precision when it counts -- a recurring nightmare for them -- that's quickly defining what is developing into a deeply disappointing campaign.
“It's getting even more frustrating week after week ...,” said David Beckham, whose crosses into the box provided a good deal of the dozen decent opportunities the Galaxy found and quickly lost. “We keep saying we're not worried about it. It's got to come a point where we need to be worried about it, and we're close to that now.”
Joel Lindpere scored the goal for New York, striding through an open expanse and into the Galaxy box to collect a short pass from Jan Gunnar Solli and fire into the right-side netting. It was all that was required for the Red Bulls, who were missing six regulars -- injured Thierry Henry and Teemu Tainio and suspended Rafa Marquez the headliners -- and employed the expected tactics.
There wasn't a whole lot of space for L.A. to operate, and the sharpness needed to break down New York's 4-1-4-1 alignment wasn't forthcoming. The rookie Meara did well to repel an Edson Buddle header at the start, a Mike Magee shot to begin the second half, a tremendous Juninho blast in the 82nd minute and Landon Donovan's reflex shot from 12 yards in the 86th.
David Beckham has made no secret of his desire to play for a unified Great Britain side at this summer's London Olympics, which will take place in his hometown. Sounds like he'll have to earn the honor.
G.B. manager Stuart Pearce told BBC Sport that he plans to travel to the U.S. to see Beckham in action with the Galaxy before determining the three over-23 players for his 18-man roster.
“[I will choose] solely on merit,” Pearce said following Tuesday's Olympic draw at Wembley Stadium. “It's the only way any manager picks a squad or a team, and I will do exactly the same. I will know a bit more when I go to the States to see what form [Beckham] is in. He's made the shortlist, and he has been a great ambassador for this country and the Olympics, but that's no recommendation that he will get in the squad, and that's fair and square across the board for all players.”
Beckham, who turns 37 on May 2, played a role in London's campaign to stage the Olympics, which begin in late July. He is on a list of potential players that has been whittled to 80 names. Only those on England's roster for the June 8-July 1 European Championship won't be considered for the G.B. roster.
Legendary English striker Gary Lineker last week told BBC's Radio 5 live that there are better choices for the three over-age slots, but “if it is a 'thank you' for all the work that Beckham has done for the Olympics and getting it to London, then it is a different matter. I would pick my best three players if I was in charge. That is who I would want, but who knows? It might be a done deal.”
The Brits were drawn into Group A with Uruguay, expected to feature Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez among its three over-age players, and with Senegal and United Arab Emirates. The men's tournament opener is July 26, the day before the opening ceremonies.