CARSON, Calif. -- The limp is gone, but the desire and determination never left for the LA Galaxy’s David Beckham.
The England international presses on with his grueling rehabilitation from a torn left Achilles tendon suffered March 14 while playing for AC Milan, and the 35-year-old is optimistic he can be playing again sometime in the next few weeks. Doctors originally set a date of Oct. 1 for Beckham’s return, but true to form, Beckham has his eyes set on a return to action this month.
"The doctors’ original date was Oct. 1, but I always kind of said I want to be ready before then. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hopefully will play in part of the game here against Columbus. I’ll be on the bench, and hopefully I’ll get on the field for 15-20 minutes. That’s what I’m looking at."
Beckham participated in his first full training session with the club on Aug. 11 and has gradually increased his work load, joining in with the rest of the squad in more and more of the training exercises. He said he is feeling better and better, although he admitted his fitness level “is like being in preseason.”
“At the moment, you have good days and you have bad days,” he said.
“You wake up with a lot more pain in your body when you’re in preseason. I have to do it because I need to get as close to match fitness as possible.
“It’s a bit difficult because when you don’t play in games; that’s where you get the real fitness from. But I’m doing what I can in the gym and what I can on the field, just trying to get strength back in my leg.
“It kind of kicks you up the backside when you realize you can’t do certain things. Working out was something I’ve done for the last 25 years, and to not being able to do it was tough for me.”
Beckham went from being on crutches for six weeks to a walking boot, and it was almost 2 1/2 months before he could put weight on his leg.
He didn’t jog without a limp for 4 1/2 months and admitted there still is a bit of apprehension on the training field.
“When you do go through a trauma like this, an injury like this,” he said, “there’s always going to be that thing in the back of your mind saying, ‘The last time I did that motion was when it actually snapped.’ Cutting and turning and pushing off is still difficult for me, but that’s going to come in time.”
And not a moment too soon. Beckham admitted the frustration of not being able to play for almost six months has been frustrating, to put it mildly.
“It’s probably better asking my wife that more than me,” he said with a grin. “Being around the house, not being able to train, not being able to play, I think it’s been worse for her than me. It’s been a long road.
“To be honest, it’s gone quicker than I thought it would. It’s almost been 5 1/2 months. The rehab has been tough. Being motivated to do the same thing over and over again, twice a day for the last four months has been difficult, but I’m getting there.
“I still obviously have to be careful. I’ve had people looking after me, trying to get the strength work done. I really can’t wait to get back out there. I always set a target of when I first did it I was trying to get back before the six months was up. Hopefully I can do that.”
Beckham said the thought of retirement never crossed his mind when he first suffered the injury.
“No, not once. Not at any point,” he said resolutely. “When you first have an injury like this and realize how serious an injury it is, you worry that you’re not going to get back to playing top flight soccer. But that probably was in my head for only about 10 seconds.
“I had so many people around me that were positive, teammates that were positive … a lot of support from everybody with the club, family and friends - it got me through that.”
Just as he will get through this most difficult phase of his career, he is confident the Galaxy will put an end to their recent struggles.
They are just 3-5-2 after a 10-0-2 start and their once impressive lead over Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference has been reduced to just three points. Their advantage is only two points over the Columbus Crew in the race for the Supporters Shield, which goes to the MLS team with the best regular season record.
“I don’t think it’s a huge problem,” he said. “We had such a great start to the season, and in the middle of the season there’s always going to be a point where you have a dip in form. We’re going through that at the moment.
“We have to realize as individuals and as a team that to win the MLS Cup you have to go through the difficult moments. We enjoyed the first part of the season, and we have to find a way of getting ourselves out of this. It’s not going to be hard because we’ve got the ability, we’ve got the players and we’ve definitely got the unity within the team.
“It’s just about getting over this slump, then once we do that hopefully we can go all the way.”