Robert Mora

Beckham’s return lifts LA in stretch run

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s David Beckham will be the first to say his match fitness isn’t what he wants it to be and he still has trouble “getting going in some areas,” but there is no arguing his impact on the club since his return from a torn Achilles tendon.

The 35-year-old midfielder has made five appearances, including three starts, and already has a goal, a trademark free kick against Chivas USA, and an assist, when he provided the corner kick for Edson Buddle to head home the game-winning goal in last Thursday’s 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union. The Galaxy are 4-1-0 since Beckham’s return, the lone loss a 2-0 setback to the New York Red Bulls on Sept. 24, and are in position to clinch the Supporters’ Shield and home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a victory on Saturday over the Colorado Rapids.

“David’s been good for the team, no question about that,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “I think he would tell you he’s not where he wants to be, and we knew that he was thrown into competition prematurely. He hasn’t had a preseason to speak of, and it’s been difficult.

“But I think on the whole he’s been better than we’ve expected given those issues. We’re hopeful over the next couple of weeks we can get him a little fitter and sharper and get him ready for the playoffs.”

Beckham, whose assist was his first in a regular season game since a 2-0 win over Toronto FC on Sept. 19, 2009 – that game also featured his last MLS goal -- said he’s not quite as comfortable as he would like. He missed almost six months after tearing his left Achilles tendon in mid-March while playing for AC Milan.

“Once I get playing I feel good,” Beckham said. “It’s still going to take a while to get match fitness, but I’m definitely close.”

The English international also said he is over any lingering concerns about a recurrence of the devastating injury.

“I’ve been able to do that for a good few weeks,” he said. “I don’t go into games thinking am I going to do it again or if I push off, is it going to snap. It’s something I don’t even think about anymore.”

That Beckham came back so soon and so effectively has drawn understandable praise from his teammates, especially considering what he went through in his rehabilitation.

“I think when we saw him in August, when he came back, obviously there were a lot of noticeable deficiencies,” Arena said. “Over the last couple of months now he’s certainly made progress at that end. I think the injury’s passed him now. It’s just getting back into soccer shape and soccer playing.”

Midfielder Chris Klein said Beckham’s comeback has been stunning.

“I guess I’m not surprised,” Klein said, “but it is astonishing with that type of injury, not only to get back to training but playing games is pretty remarkable.”

Added Landon Donovan, “It’s still hard for him, I think, defensively. He still doesn’t have the energy to move around defensively the way he wants, but when he gets the ball you can see what he can do.

“It’s just going to take time to develop a rhythm with him.

“If you haven’t played with a player like that for a long time, it takes time to understand that he’s going to make the pass that you don’t think he can make. A lot of our guys need time to adjust to that.”

Beckham said he is pleased with the contributions he has made in his brief return.

“It’s something I hoped for,” he said. “But obviously when you come back from a bad injury like I had you expect it to take time and you have your doubts about certain things in your game.

“After an injury like this to come back and have an assist and a goal and to be in the position the team is in, I’m happy with that.”