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Beckham has been major disappointment for MLS

DECISIONS LIKE THESE are why the legacy of David Beckham in Major League Soccer will be nothing like what it could have been.

David Beckham didn't come to Philadelphia for the Galaxy's game against the Union. (Bret Hartman/AP file photo)
David Beckham didn't come to Philadelphia for the Galaxy's game against the Union. (Bret Hartman/AP file photo)Read more

DECISIONS LIKE THESE are why the legacy of David Beckham in Major League Soccer will be nothing like what it could have been.

For an MLS stint with so much promise, Beckham has delivered comparatively little.

Last night, Beckham was a healthy scratch for the Los Angeles Galaxy playing the Union at PPL Park.

Becks wasn't even available for "curb appeal," as Galaxy coach Bruce Arena decided the $6.5 million-a-year "Face of MLS" was too pooped to make the cross-country flight from Los Angeles.

"Fatigue, bumps and bruises you typically get," Arena said in reference to Beckham, who makes more than the entire roster of the Union team that tied the Galaxy, 1-1, last night. "We decided to rest him."

This couldn't have been what MLS had in mind while trumpeting Beckham as a game-changer for professional soccer in the United States when he was signed in 2007.

Beckham was supposed to help push MLS to a "major" status to match its name.

Yetin his fifth MLS season, Beckham was listed as a healthy scratch for a trip to one of the league's signature markets.

"I'm [hissed off]," said Karen Korver, of Norristown, who was attending her first MLS game. "The reason I came here was to see Beckham."

The Galaxy is in the midst of three games in 7 days, but last night was its only road game.

For the Union, everyone suited up last night despite playing in Portland last Saturday and with a trip to FC Dallas set for this Saturday.

If any MLS player should make every road trip, it would be Beckham, even if it's just to sign pregame autographs.

Those were the extra responsibilities Beckham signed on for when he accepted that guaranteed $32.5 million.

Beckham didn't just arrive in America as a player. He arrived as an ambassador for soccer and MLS.

"With me, it's about football," Beckham said at his introductory news conference. "I'm coming here to make a difference.

"I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think I could make a difference."

That statement has stuck to Beckham. It is the standard by which all of his actions involving MLS have been judged.

From the beginning, I wrote that Beckham could not deliver what was advertised, but I can't say he has had no impact.

The Union had a PPL Park-record crowd of 19,178 last night. It is safe to assume the extra standing-room-only tickets were sold to fans who anticipated seeing Beckham.

Still, Beckham's influence on MLS hasn't been nearly what it could have been . . . should have been.

A lot of that can be traced back to Beckham himself.

When Pelé came out of a 2-year retirement in 1975 to join the New York Cosmos, of the old North American Soccer League, he did so with the sole motivation of using his name recognition to help grow the sport here.

Pelé had accepted that his time as a great player was done. He was content to work tirelessly to promote the game in America.

Beckham sold himself as a 21st-century Pelé - an international name who would give his all to help take United States soccer to its next phase of evolution.

He never fully committed.

Unlike Pelé, Beckham did not believe he was done as an international force.

And truthfully, with Beckham having just turned 32 when he left world-power Real Madrid to join the Galaxy, he still had some highest-level play left in him.

The lure of conquering America was too hard for the cultural icon to resist, but as a player, Beckham dreamed of making the roster for 2010 England World Cup team.

But England head coach Fabio Capello made it known that Beckham had little chance of making the team because he wasn't facing "quality" competition in MLS.

Becks' personal ambitions got the best of him.

He chose "queen and country" over his contractual obligation to the Galaxy and MLS.

It wasn't the initial loan agreement with Italian Serie A power A.C. Milan in 2009 that turned the tide against Beckham.

That was supposed to be only for a couple of months during the offseason, and Beckham assured everyone that he would be in Los Angeles for the start of the Galaxy season that March.

A month into the loan, however, Beckham reversed course and sought a permanent transfer to Milan.

The Galaxy and Milan couldn't agree on a transfer fee, but Beckham, in what he described as a "timeshare" deal, got his loan in Italy extended to mid-July, blowing off half the MLS season.

Needless to say, that didn't endear Beckham to Galaxy fans, who rightly felt as if they had been shunned.

You would think that Beckham would have learned something after being jeered by home fans who once adored him.

But given a chance to patch things up in Los Angeles, Beckham instead went back to A.C. Milan after the 2009 MLS season concluded.

The "timeshare" agreement never back came into play, because Beckham tore his left Achilles tendon, an injury that cost him 5 months, including the World Cup and most of the 2010 MLS season.

Amazingly, Beckham, who has now stated his desire to be one of the three overage (23) players who could be on the roster for England at the 2012 London Olympics, was trying to play the "loan game" again last winter.

But this time, the Galaxy balked at letting him play for English Premier League squad Tottenham Hotspur.

Beckham didn't show up for an MLS game last night in Philadelphia, but in a lot of ways, that has been the story of his entire time in America.

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