Beckham’s return lifts LA in stretch run

Just over a month since his return, Beckham is already paying dividends on the field for the Ga

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Photo Credit: 
Robert Mora

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s
David Beckham will be the first to say his match fitness isn’t what he wants it
to be and he still has trouble “getting going in some areas,” but there is no
arguing his impact on the club since his return from a torn Achilles tendon.

The 35-year-old midfielder
has made five appearances, including three starts, and already has a goal, a
trademark free kick against Chivas USA, and an assist, when he
provided the corner kick for Edson Buddle to head home the game-winning goal in
last Thursday’s 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union. The Galaxy are 4-1-0
since Beckham’s return, the lone loss a 2-0 setback to the New York Red Bulls
on Sept. 24, and are in position to clinch the Supporters’ Shield and home field
advantage throughout the playoffs with a victory on Saturday over the Colorado
Rapids.

“David’s been good for the
team, no question about that,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “I think he
would tell you he’s not where he wants to be, and we knew that he was thrown
into competition prematurely. He hasn’t had a preseason to speak of, and it’s
been difficult.

“But I think on the whole
he’s been better than we’ve expected given those issues. We’re hopeful over the
next couple of weeks we can get him a little fitter and sharper and get him
ready for the playoffs.”

Beckham, whose assist was
his first in a regular season game since a 2-0 win over Toronto FC on Sept. 19,
2009 – that game also featured his last MLS goal -- said he’s not quite as
comfortable as he would like. He missed almost six months after tearing his
left Achilles tendon in mid-March while playing for AC Milan.

“Once I get playing I feel
good,” Beckham said. “It’s still going to take a while to get match fitness,
but I’m definitely close.”

The English international
also said he is over any lingering concerns about a recurrence of the
devastating injury.

“I’ve been able to do that
for a good few weeks,” he said. “I don’t go into games thinking am I going to
do it again or if I push off, is it going to snap. It’s something I don’t even
think about anymore.”

That Beckham came back so
soon and so effectively has drawn understandable praise from his teammates,
especially considering what he went through in his rehabilitation.

“I think when we saw him in
August, when he came back, obviously there were a lot of noticeable
deficiencies,” Arena said. “Over the last couple of months now he’s certainly
made progress at that end. I think the injury’s passed him now. It’s just
getting back into soccer shape and soccer playing.”

Midfielder Chris Klein said
Beckham’s comeback has been stunning.

“I guess I’m not surprised,”
Klein said, “but it is astonishing with that type of injury, not only to get
back to training but playing games is pretty remarkable.”

Added Landon Donovan, “It’s
still hard for him, I think, defensively. He still doesn’t have the
energy to move around defensively the way he wants, but when he gets the ball
you can see what he can do.

“It’s just going to take
time to develop a rhythm with him.

“If you haven’t played with a
player like that for a long time, it takes time to understand that he’s going
to make the pass that you don’t think he can make. A lot of our guys need time
to adjust to that.”

Beckham said he is pleased
with the contributions he has made in his brief return.

“It’s something I hoped
for,” he said. “But obviously when you come back from a bad injury like I had
you expect it to take time and you have your doubts about certain things in
your game.

“After an injury like this
to come back and have an assist and a goal and to be in the position the team
is in, I’m happy with that.”