David Hirshey writes regularly for Deadspin about soccer.
It's not often that I plan my Saturday night around watching a MLS game, especially when it kicks off right when my man Tyler Hansbrough is in the midst of giving little Ricky Pitino a facial for the ages. But this was not just any MLS game, it was the showcase match of the league's opening weekend, and it involved a certain English underwear model who plays for the LA Galaxy and, who from all accounts, was finally healthy and ready to justify his "$250 million" hype as the latest Messiah of American Soccer.
So really, what choice did I have but to TiVO the Heels, hook up an I.V. of Stella and watch David Beckham's do-over debut for the Galaxy against the Colorado Rapids? I had granted Becks a mulligan for last year 's train-wreck of a season in which he had played in only five games and scored a single, solitary goal. Yep, I had decided to give him a clean slate, to suspend any judgments on his ability to transform a team, a league, a sport, until he could perform pain-free on the field.
But after watching him stroll around Dick's Sporting Goods Park Saturday night (it doesn't quite roll off the tongue like Old Trafford, does it?), it's clear that no amount of Becks' trademark laser-guided passes or exquisite dead-ball deliveries is going to change the fact that the Galaxy are eye-bleedingly awful. The ease with which they were dismantled 4-0 by a workmanlike Colorado Rapids team missing half a dozen key players makes you wonder what Lalas and the rest of the Galaxy 's so-called braintrust were thinking when they surrounded their prize catch with what looks to be two MLS All-Stars (Donovan and Ruiz) and eight one-legged circus performers. Even more astonishing is how they were able to convince the great Dutch player Ruud "Sexy Football" Gullitt to coach this farce, other than by promising him safe haven in Bali if things didn't work out.
You would think that after last year's premature ejaculation about soccer's second coming in the U.S., the MLS might have lowered the expectations. But there on Saturday night was Fox's Max Bretos, the carnival barker of American soccer, assuring us "it's hard not to get excited by a game of this magnitude" (Jeez, Max, how tumescent would you get about, say, Brazil v. Argentina?) Referring to the game's marquee attraction as "David Robert Joseph Beckham" Max pronounced "the Beckham Era" upon us.
As it turned out, it was more like the Terry Cooke Era. Cookie, who played alongside Becks on Man U's youth championship teams back in the day, eventually crumbled out of Old Trafford in the mid-nineties and found his way to Colorado two years ago. On Saturday, he had a goal and two assists against the Galaxy and combined with Colorado's Argentine playmaker Christian Gomez to make LA look like a poor man's Derby County, if such a thing is possible. And I should know because earlier in the day, preparing for a "game of this magnitude," I watched another game that was hard not to get excited about — Derby vs. Fulham for the bragging rights to the title of the Worst Prem Team In Anyone's Memory.
For years Lalas has been yammering about how the best MLS teams could hold their own in the lower reaches of England's top flight. Let me just say that, as spectacularly incompetent as Derby is, the Galaxy, on the basis of Saturday's performance, aren't worthy of washing their jocks. But given where Beckham's priorities seem to be — getting a new $5,000 tattoo of a bare-breasted angel who looks like his wife, playing footsy with Anderson Cooper on "60 Minutes," or offering a private lesson to Salma Hayek for $350,000 at a charity auction — who cares about soccer when you can look at a giant billboard of your golden balls in Times Square? Yes, there he is in all his near-naked glory at the crossroads of the world, reclining in a pair of too-tighty Armani whities for which he's been paid an estimated $30 million, which, if you believe Posh Spice's math, works out to about three million an inch.
"He does have a huge one," she recently said, describing how he truly bends. "You can see it in the advert. It is all his. It is like a tractor exhaust pipe."
That may be fine when it comes to plowing HER field, but the MLS needs every inch of Beckham The Player to take soccer to the next level. That means no more jetting off to make cameos for England three days before a Galaxy game. Congratulations on your 100th cap, Becks, you looked sharp launching 40-yard balls to Rooney and Gerrard in that 1-0 loss to France on Wednesday. I realize it's perhaps not as gratifying pinging gift-wrapped passes to Landycakes and Ruiz, but I hear Lalas is scouting a new striker for you. Her name is Salma Hayek.