CARSON, Calif. – David Beckham’s announcement Monday that he will be playing his final game for the LA Galaxy on Dec. 1 in MLS Cup against the Houston Dynamo at The Home Depot Center didn’t come as much of a surprise to coaches and teammates.
But there unquestionably was a sense of finality at realizing the wildly popular 37-year-old is closing in on the end of a career not only with the defending MLS Cup champions but with Major League Soccer as a whole.
“Personally I’m feeling sad about this decision,” Galaxy midfielder Juninho said Tuesday. “I was sad when I heard the news. But it’s his decision and I hope it’s good for him.”
Defender Todd Dunivant said Beckham received some good-natured abuse in the locker room Tuesday, which is understandable considering Beckham was known as one of the team’s best practical jokers.
“You always have to jab him because he’d do the same to you,” Dunivant said. “Obviously we’re disappointed to lose him and I think he’s disappointed to be leaving as well, but he’ll have another chapter to go and so will we.”
Beckham, who has spent the last six seasons with the club, has fostered stunning growth of the game in this country since he signed with the Galaxy in January of 2007. Seven expansion teams have been added to the league and 15 of MLS’ 19 teams now play in soccer-specific stadia.
“It’s great in that it brings closure to David’s tenure with the Galaxy and MLS,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “David’s 37 years old. He can’t play forever. He’s done more in MLS and for MLS than any of us ever would have imagined.
“He’s worth a lot more to the league than we ever could have thought.
"He’s done wonders for the Galaxy and he’s done incredible amounts of positive things for MLS. We are now a well-known league around the world and we can attribute a lot of that to David.
PHOTOS: Beckham's Galaxy Career
“His six years in MLS have been tremendous and I think it’s more than any of us could have imagined.”
It hasn’t been all smooth going, however. Beckham and the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan, for example, had a well-chronicled, testy partnership when the England international first arrived on the scene, but Donovan now says he’s “grown a lot as a person since he’s been here.”
“I’ve watched him closely with all the things he does,” Donovan continued. “His leadership ability, how he handles himself. It’s been an inspiration for me.
“We haven’t always gotten along, especially in the beginning, but he’s a good person. I think we’re all very happy for him that he’s ready to move on and do whatever comes next.”
Donovan admitted the arrival of Beckham, especially someone of his standing around the world, led to some predictable difficulties, not only for the team but between the two stars.
“He would admit there’s been some hard times. It’s not easy when something like that happens,” Donovan said. “It kind of turns everyone’s world upside down when someone of his stature comes into a team. Thinking back I don’t think he could have handled it any better than the way he did. With all the attention and all the pressure and all the eyeballs on him it’s not easy. I think people forget that side of it.
“For him to come in and try to integrate was very difficult. There were some tough stretches, but overall it’s been a resounding success, in my opinion.”