No More Time For Experiments

September, 10, 2010

As sure as Brett Favre throws interceptions to the New Orleans Saints' defense, if there is an international week then there will be a news release from David Beckham. Reportedly, Becks is on the verge of coming back. And though no one was wondering, he made it clear this week that he still wants to play for England.

Spare me.

It's time for MLS's highest paid player to do the one thing he's not done in his overhyped career: Give his undivided attention to the Los Angeles Galaxy.

On Saturday, the Galaxy host Columbus Crew in the MLS game of the season. They both boast 13-5-5 records, with Columbus at the top of the Eastern Conference and Los Angeles tied on points with Real Salt Lake in the West. It's a fitting setting for the potential return of a superstar. And make no mistake, Beckham still transcends his sport. But that has more to do with his matinee idol looks and eponymous association with a blockbuster movie than anything he's done on the field in years.

It would be great for MLS, the Galaxy and also for Beckham, if he finally seized the opportunity to show America he's got talent. But he hasn't taken that opportunity before during his time stateside and it seems unlikely he'll do it now. Previously, he was always busy trying to get another England substitute appearance, loan deal with A.C. Milan or kicking a soccer ball from a London bus at the Olympic's closing ceremonies. Now, at 35-years-old and coming off an Achilles' tendon injury, he gets set for his MLS comeback with all the usual pronouncements about being dedicated to the Galaxy. But you know he's still got at least one eye on the Three Lions.

On Thursday, Beckham told The Associated Press about his "good relationship" with England boss Fabio Capello, and that at some point his old manager might need some "old heads." Beckham added, "If I'm part of that, then great."

What would be great is Beckham looking across the field on Saturday night and taking the time to study the enormous contribution Guillermo Barros Schelotto has made to the Crew during the Englishman's self-generated, star-crossed time in MLS.

The wee Argentine with the big game joined the Crew in 2007, the same season Beckham landed in L.A. Schelotto was not a designated player and received little to no fanfare. Yet few overseas players in MLS history have matched Schelotto's level of performance. And none, including Beckham, have made a bigger impact on the field than Scheletto during his time in Columbus. He's won MVP honors, scored 33 goals in 100 games (and counting), and led the Crew to the MLS Cup title in 2008. And his focus remains second to none. Last week, he pounced on D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid's blunder to score the Crew's winning goal.

Bruce Arena's game plan this week will undoubtedly pay close attention to Schelotto. Will Beckham feature? Probably not. At the most he'll get a quick cameo. Either way, after a fast start, the Galaxy have stalled in recent weeks. What better time for No. 23 to return to the fold? Tinseltown scribes are no doubt poised to pen "Mend It Like Beckham." But there will be no greenlight on that script unless Beckham can bend his mind to managing the job at hand instead of simply managing his brand.

Few aging sports stars get the chance for a Hollywood ending, but Beckham, literally and figuratively, has a shot. But the time for experiments is over. It's time for commitment.



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