CARSON, Calif. – It may not have been ideal — or even planned, necessarily — but David Beckham played 90 minutes for the Los Angeles Galaxy for the first time this season.
Beckham started and went the distance against New York Red Bulls on Friday in a 2-0 Galaxy loss, the longest he’s played anywhere since before tearing his Achilles tendon while playing for AC Milan on March 14.
“I felt pretty good,” Beckham said. “There were some stages where I felt tired, felt my lungs a little bit. We had a few players pull up with injuries, so I had to stay on in the end. It was good to get 90.”
The match was perhaps a bit unsettling for the Galaxy as New York walked away with the full three points, but Beckham made his presence felt throughout the match.
One of the Galaxy’s best scoring opportunities came on one of Beckham’s trademark free kicks.
In the 65th minute, the Galaxy won a free kick some 27 yards out. Beckham lined up the kick and swerved the ball over the wall, but New York’s Bouna Coundoul knocked it away from goal.
WATCH: Coundoul denies Beckham's FK
To his teammates, Beckham continues to serve as inspiration and motivation just by being out there and playing.
“I was shocked he was able to go 90, and he seemed to get stronger as the game went on,” LA captain Landon Donovan said. “His passing is still a little behind and his sharpness [too], but you can still tell that he can make real plays in the game. I thought he did well.”
Beckham said, however, that the plan was for him to play 65-70 minutes. Throughout his rehabilitation process, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said the team would take incremental steps toward getting Beckham back to full match fitness, and that Beckham was going from 20 minutes to 45 and slowly on upward until 90.
But Beckham went from 37 minutes one week to 90 minutes the next.
The need for Beckham to play 90 minutes came due to other substitutions that were apparently more pressing. At halftime, Arena made a defender-for-defender substitution as Leonardo was removed in favor of A.J. DeLaGarza. In the 67th minute, Eddie Lewis replaced Jovan Kirovski in another tactical change.
With one substitution left, Arena was forced to use it on Dema Kovalenko, who went down injured and was unable to continue. Tristan Bowen replaced Kovalenko in the 76th minute and the Galaxy were left without substitutions.
“I would have preferred that he played less than 90 minutes,” Arena said. “David felt he could play 90 minutes. In a perfect world, he should not have played that long, but he showed tremendous character and quality in the last 20 minutes when by all rights he should have been off the field.”