CARSON, Calif. – David Beckham will end his six year stay with the LA Galaxy on Saturday with three appearances in MLS Cup in his six years with the club. While LA have flourished over the last four years under the stewardship of head coach Bruce Arena, in the early days of Beckham’s arrival, things were hardly easy for the midfielder of the Galaxy.
In fact, according to then-head coach Frank Yallop, at times they were downright “wild.” From the outset, attention was overwhelming as the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star drew considerable press from around the world for his arrival in the United States.
"The first year, when I was here, was kind of crazy, to be honest," Yallop said Thursday. "Nobody knew how big he was globally. I had no idea. I had seen him on TV and met him once before signed, then all of a sudden he's here. I think it took everybody by surprise how popular he is. "I think Alexi [Lalas, the Galaxy's general manager in 2007] said it was a circus. It wasn't that far off.
"[The beginning of Beckham’s tenure] was wild," Yallop added "I've never seen so many photographers the first game [a World Football Challenge match against Chelsea]. There were 300 or something standing, we couldn't even get to the bench. They weren't taking photographs of us. I don't think we understood what it was all about, and when you're in it, it was like, 'Whoa.' Everyone's head was spinning. It was difficult to concentrate on soccer to be honest."
The Galaxy narrowly missed out on the postseason finishing the season with a 9-14-7 record with Beckham making five appearances after joining the club in July. LA’s strong finish to the season was not enough to save Yallop’s job as he was removed just days after the season and ultimately replaced by Dutchman Ruud Gullit.
The former Dutch International’s time in L.A. was no better as he too, along with Lalas were removed midway through the 2008 season in favor of Arena.
"Once Bruce got here to settle everything down and get back to playing soccer, which is what we're all here to do, and get a nice settled side,” said Yallop. “Landon's playing well and the addition of Robbie Keane was fantastic. They've done a great job here. They're a good side, and for me, David now settling in and going through his last game in MLS, it's been a great story."
Fast forward six years and much has changed for both Beckham and Yallop. Beckham has played a key role in LA’s four consecutive postseason appearances since the 2009 season and will play his final game in Saturday’s MLS Cup against the Houston Dynamo.
After departing the Galaxy, Yallop took over his old post at the San Jose Earthquakes and in 2012, he earned MLS Coach of the Year honors for leading San Jose to the Supporters’ Shield.
On Thursday, Yallop was on hand at The Home Depot Center to honor a key member of that 2012 San Jose team, forward Chris Wondolowski, who was awarded the 2012 MLS Volkswagen Most Valuable Player award. Although the focus centered on Wondolowski’s honor, Yallop admitted that he was pleased with the way that Beckham’s time in the Galaxy will be ending and his role in its infancy
"If you look at before David came, I don't think [MLS] coverage was as big. I don't think the interest from non-soccer people was as high. As soon as he joined, it was a massive spike in everything, from people being interested in knowing the Galaxy brand to filling stadiums to getting people aware of the game,” said Yallop. “Talk about a fantastic move by [AEG president and CEO] Tim Leiweke and the group here, but a brave move from David as well. It was a big move. He was at the top of his game when he came here, and I think that was a brave move. It's worked out well for everybody, and you have to commend him for doing it. I'll never regret coming and being part of that for sure. You live and learn, and maybe that type of thing is not for me, but I really enjoyed my time with the Galaxy and especially with David."