CARSON, Calif. – David Beckham first stepped foot in Utah before even Rio Tinto Stadium existed.
As a member of Real Madrid, Beckham attended the stadium’s groundbreaking ceremony in 2006, about one year before he joined the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer.
Beckham, however, has not had the opportunity to play in any of the two games the Galaxy have played at the stadium, now considered one of the most imposing venues in MLS.
That will change on Saturday.
“I’m excited,” Beckham said of the Galaxy’s match against RSL (9 pm ET/6 pm PT, PRIME TICKET, D-10:30 p.m. PT). “It was a long time ago when I was first there, and they were setting the sites of building that
stadium. It's exciting and I'm looking forward to playing there.”
Excitement might seem to be contradictory to how players typically feel when playing at Rio Tinto. After all, Real Salt Lake have not lost a regular-season league match there since May 2009.
Beckham’s role is that much important this time around, with the absence of captain Landon Donovan, who will play for the US against Argentina at New Meadowlands Stadium on Saturday. RSL, meanwhile, will be missing players as Alvaro Saborio, Will Johnson and Arturo Alvarez, who are off on international duty. Jamison Olave, Nick Rimando and Chris Wingert are nursing injuries.
Still, no matter how many players RSL are out, Beckham said they are an ever-present threat.
“Their unity is something that won them the final [in 2009],” he said. “We had it, but when it gets to penalties, it's a tough call. They’ve got talent, great team spirits, and that's one of their strengths.”
LA could see Juan Pablo Angel start for the first time in a Galaxy uniform. The Colombian striker did not play against Seattle in the March 15 opener but saw about a half-hour’s worth of playing time against New England on March 20.
With Donovan out, the club could also turn to rookie Paolo Cardozo, who made his debut against New England.