David Beckham’s MLS Becoming a Galactic Mess

He was supposed to change MLS and soccer in America forever. David Beckham’s signing in January 2007 with the LA Galaxy was supposed to elevate his new club and by extension its league to heights never experienced before. Eighteen months later all parties (except AEG, the Galaxy’s owners who have made a killing off the Beckham name) must ponder whether it was really worthwhile.

David Beckham is a true footballer and a class act. Like most English footballers his work rate is exceptional and his understanding of true football is commendable. The truth is a footballer of Beckham’s stature deserves better than the LA Galaxy or what MLS has become thanks to his presence. It is ironic that on this day when we ponder the massive overhaul of Beckham’s team, that the two dominant forces in MLS remain the two sides that have lived within their means and have promoted continuity over flamboyance and mass marketing: Those two sides, Houston and New England should be held up as examples of what MLS was at one time and should return to once the league returns to its senses. The continued of presence of Designated Players and signings of overage foreigners has done little to sustain new support for the league. While it has stimulated some new interest, much of the interest has turned the television off when exposed to a bad product, which many MLS games not including Houston or New England remain. The one designated player who has helped transform his team for the better on the pitch, Cuauhtémoc Blanco I believe could have still been signed by MLS without the DP rule. How you ask? How did the MLS sign Luis Hernandez, then in the prime of his career in 2000? How about Carlos Hermosillo signing in 1998? Carlos Vaderrama and Roberto Donadoni in 1996? You do not really believe that MLS never had Designated Players before 2007 do you?

Blanco has been an important addition for MLS and for a Chicago Fire club that was previously under performing at the gate. But I believe Blanco could have and would have been signed by MLS without the DP rule. How sure am I of this? The second Blanco was thrown off the national team by former manager Ricardo LaVolpe, rumors in Mexico began circulating that he was coming to MLS. Unlike, Europe the examples of Hernandez and Hermosillo demonstrated that for top Mexican attacking players, MLS is always an option late in your career.

I have no comment on the firing of Alexi Lalas. While I have been very critical of Los Angeles personnel moves since the untimely death of Doug Hamilton over two years ago, I am less certain than ever Lalas was actually charged with building the squad. It seems Lalas, a man of near legendary status as a player for the US was used by the Galaxy’s owners to sell their product to the world. The responsibility for finding players was not important to the Galaxy, because after all they had David Beckham.

Regarding the resignation of Ruud Gullit, this is a black eye for MLS: for the first time since Carlos Quieroz in 1997 a big name international coach was attracted to the league, and despite having an obvious tactical edge on his competitors his employment to a team that is essentially a marketing outfit, not a proper football club made it impossible for him to do his job. No doubt the critics of MLS in Europe will come out of the woodwork with Gullit departure to heap scorn on the league. However, unlike many times in the past, this go round the scorn is roundly deserved.

Major League Soccer despite the continued success of Houston and New England has become more glitz than substance since David Beckham’s arrival. The league feeling a constant need to answer critics and over sell its product have made boastful claims about its competitiveness and the value of its franchises with no real substance to back up these claims. These are the unwanted corollaries of the “Beckham effect.”

David Beckham is a class act, a great footballer. He should once and for all talk to the Galaxy brass and ask if they are going to continue to use him as a way to sell shirts and make money or if they want him to settle down and help them win football matches. Beckham should also have a role in identifying players for the Galaxy. If the club does not want to do this, it is best both parties move on. Beckham can still find a club in Europe during this transfer window and MLS and the Galaxy can pick up the pieces of its broken reputation abroad and focus on the things that made the league successful for the eleven seasons before David Beckham came to America: fiscal discipline, player development and cultivating the American soccer media.

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About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
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8 Responses to David Beckham’s MLS Becoming a Galactic Mess

  1. Phillip says:

    Eh, can’t say that I completely disagree.

  2. OddsandSods says:

    I wrote somewhat similarly, and I agree about Beckham. It’s a spectacular Catch 22. An amicable parting would be the best for both the Galaxy and Beckham, but both have so much money invested that they can’t do it.

  3. Brian says:

    The one plus I see coming out of all of this is that when it comes time to sit down and negotiate the new CBA, AEG, in an effort to build up its “flagship club,” could end up being a strange bedfellow for the players by putting pressure on Garber and the other owners to increase the cap and pay scale.

  4. Armand says:

    Do I care what the worst team in MLS does?

    some decent point here but too much of a fuss is being made about something almost completely meaningless.

    Losing gullit as you mention is not good, but otherwise who cares.

  5. NJ says:

    Lalas has been on the outs for awhile. he did a terrible job last year, constantly changing the squad and did little to improve it this year. If he was supposed to promote the league I think some of his stupid remarks he made at times were entertaining, but in the end hurt the league more then helping it by setting too high of a standard.

    when it comes to Gullit, it may be bad blood becasue he lost his job but Abel Xavier, had little positives to say when he left. See the link below for the whole article but here is an excerpt (http://www.goal.com/en-US/articolo.aspx?contenutoid=786270)

    “Xavier contends that his tattered relationship with the Gullit is one amongst many in the squad, a team that dislikes its coach but can’t speak out for fear of being shipped out of town — with one significant exception.

    “He has frictions with most of the players within the team,” Xavier said. “The only player he doesn’t have frictions with is David Beckham.”

    I dont’ know if we have the whole story, but the fact remains that LA is playing poorly and has been terrible in the back all season long, and their attack is starting to wane. You can have all of the tactical acumen in the world but if you don’t win, no one really cares. Its sad that we see such turnover, but until the whole story unfolds, we can’t be sending players off and declaring things failures.

    The Galaxy team has 2 quality players, Beckham and Donovan, and a number of flashes who may potentially be quality, but currently are not.

  6. JR says:

    Lalas made some good moves. Getting Klein for Sturgis was a good deal as was Buddle for Marshall.

    So Lalas’ trouble was really AEG.

  7. Flash says:

    The Galaxy represent a joke not worth even discussing quite honestly. Now, back to the national team………..

  8. Excellent article – Beckham certainly hasn’t achieved what he would have liked so far. Not n terms of where LA Galaxy are in the league anyway.

    Like I said – excellent article and blog. Please drop me an email when you get a chance.

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