CARSON, Calif. – In the days leading to the Los Angeles Galaxy’s game against Columbus, David Beckham has made the longest strides since tearing his Achilles tendon in March.
On Wednesday, he played 45 minutes in a scrimmage against rivals Chivas USA. He was activated from the disabled list Thursday, and playing his first minutes of the season Saturday would make his comeback complete.
But will he actually make it on the field?
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena was pessimistic about Beckham’s chances of playing Saturday. But the midfielder remains hopeful of making it on the bench and possibly onto the field.
“I think I could possibly be on the bench,” Beckham said Thursday. “Obviously, we still have to see how I wake up [Friday] and see if there’s any more reaction from [my foot]. It’s down to talking to the physios and the guys I’ve been working with and, obviously, the manager and deciding. But – fingers crossed – I’ll be eligible to be on the bench.”
Arena, though, shot down that optimism, but not entirely.
“I don’t think that’s likely,” Arena said of Beckham’s possible participation against the Crew. “All [being] taken off the disabled list simply means he’s eligible in games and you are required to be out for six weeks, and this is the end of the six-week period.
“I wouldn’t say definite [that Beckham won’t be on the bench]. That decision isn’t made yet,” Arena said. “He’s getting close. He played in the practice game [against Chivas USA] for 45 minutes.”
[inline_node:316787]That game against Chivas was the first action Beckham has seen since he hurt himself while playing for AC Milan. He had surgery two days later and was originally expected to be out for most, if not all, of the 2010 MLS season.
Instead, Beckham recovered in time to re-join the Galaxy for training on Aug. 11 and has now moved forward beyond that.
Still, for all the time spent rehabilitating and recovering – particularly since rejoining the team – the road to full recovery is quite long.
“The first 10 minutes were a bit of a blow for me, kind of a back to reality of playing in a game," Beckham said, "but I got a second wind around 25 minutes."
“Physically, I’m trying to get up to match fitness, but I’ll only get that with playing in games,” he added. “Strength-wise, I’ve not got 100 percent strength in that left leg, but I’m working on it. It’s getting stronger each day.”
Beckham’s return to action will be well-received by his teammates, whether it happens Saturday or not. The way the midfielder has looked in training sessions gives his teammates hope that a return is imminent, but his effect is being felt already.
“First off, it’s just nice to have him back in training,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “He makes our team better immediately when he’s in training, in the locker room every day and eventually when he gets on the field. It still might be a little early [for him to come back] on Saturday, but if he gets a chance I think he’ll do fine.”
Coming back from injury requires not only the strength to have overcome the injury, but also getting back into playing shape. Training can only recreate so much, Donovan said.
“It’s a lot different playing small-sided games versus the real thing, when you have to run and defend and do things that you haven’t done in a long time,” he said. “But getting through the [scrimmage against Chivas] was a big step and, depending on how he recovers, will determine his eligibility on Saturday.”
The Galaxy and Columbus will play for the possible lead in the Supporters’ Shield race, and a win could also help the Los Angeles Galaxy stave off hard-charging contenders Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas. If Beckham has the chance to play a role in the match, he said he’d take it.
“I think I can play some part of the game,” he said. “Obviously, with not playing for six months, there has to be a kind of careful few minutes at a time and if I can play 10, 15, 20 minutes, hopefully I can do that.”