CARSON, Calif. – After David Beckham played 20 minutes against Columbus last weekend, both he and Galaxy coach Bruce Arena took a wait-and-see approach regarding his possible minutes for the team’s next match.
They waited. They saw. They evaluated. And they came away satisfied.
Beckham’s participation in Saturday’s game against D.C. United is all but a certainty. But how long the Englishman plays still remains to be seen.
“There wasn’t any reaction from irritation from the 20 minutes that I got and I felt good on the Monday,” Beckham said on Thursday. “It was a good 20 minutes [against Columbus on Saturday] and a good time to get in. That’s down to the manager, whether he thinks I should start or come into the game.”
Beckham made remarkable strides in recovering from an Achilles tendon tear. His injury occurred this past March while playing with AC Milan. Less than six months later, he was back in action for the Galaxy.
With such progress, it may seem likely that Beckham will make an equally speedy return from playing a few minutes at the end of the game to starting and possibly playing all 90. Arena, though, said the original Designated Player must show incremental progress before he considers the midfielder for a starting position.
“We’re not building him from 20 minutes to 90 minutes,” Arena said. “We’re building him from 20 minutes to somewhere between 20 and 45, and then somewhere between 45 and 60. Once we’re sure he can play 45 minutes, I think he’s in position to start a game.”
Having Beckham come off the bench is seemingly the best option for the DC match. Starting him and removing him at the intermission may seem like another viable option, but Arena said that could be risky given the potential series of moves it could force.
“We really don’t feel like he’s quite ready for 45 minutes, so if we did that, we could be forced to have to make two substitutions for one,” Arena said.
Beckham was in a similar position once before with Los Angeles. In August 2007, then-coach Frank Yallop started Beckham in a league match the day after Beckham played in a friendly in London. Because the Galaxy used up their allotted substitutions, a slowed and fatigued Beckham was stranded on the field and had to play the entire match.
That likely won’t happen this time around.
“The first thing we’ve got to be clear about is, can he play 45 minutes?" Arena said. "If he can’t play 45 minutes, certainly you can start him and make one change. If you start him in the second half and he’s struggling to make it to 45 minutes, you’ve got some issues because you are burning two substitutions in that position."
As far as when the final determination will be made with regards to Beckham’s playing time, Arena said the team will take a cautious approach and react to Beckham’s progress or lack thereof.
“We’re going to see how he feels [Friday]," Arena said. "He’s had three good days of training this week and we’ll do what makes sense. We’ll figure out by Saturday. Every week has gotten better. The goal is still to be able to get him by playoff time to be able to play 90 minutes.”