This week marks ten years since David Beckham signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy. The extent of the impact Becks had on American domestic club soccer isn’t entirely settled, though plenty of folks are certainly giving ita shot. But it’s undeniable that Beckham— his undeniable talent, his celebrity, his brand savvy— gave Major League Soccer the thing it had been quixotically chasing for more than a decade: legitimacy.
There will be a lot written this week about David Beckham’s mark on American soccer. We’re going to zero in on a particular game— one that would’ve been filed away as a typical fixture in the MLS regular season, but for one man and his singular ability to turn a game.
This week we look back at the summer of 2011, when Beckham’s Galaxy hosted the Chicago Fire.
By the time the season clicked over into July the Galaxy were solidly on a roll. They went into their game against the Fire on an 11-game unbeaten streak and in a strong position to claim the Supporter’s Shield. They couldn’t afford to be complacent— Seattle and RSL were hot on their tails— but LA had a pretty strong hand heading into the middle of the summer.
Chicago? Notsomuch. They landed at LAX having won just two league games all season. They probably didn’t know it then, but the Fire were well on their way to becoming the team they are today— limp in attack, disorganized in defense, and lacking the skill and fortitude to get a result.
That they managed to hang on as long as they did against their hosts is somewhat impressive, given the circumstances. They managed to keep the game scoreless through the first half and, as the clock closed in on the hour mark, started to feel pretty good about their chances of taking at least a point our of Carson. Their hopes of a clean sheet were cruelly dashed by none other than Landon Donovan in the 58th minute with a thundering header off a corner kick (delivered by Beckham, because of course).
The Fire managed to collect themselves quickly and started looking for a way back into the game. They didn’t have to wait long— Cristian Nazarit headed in at the far post in the 62nd minute to level the score and silence the crowd.
All things being equal, Chicago might have been able to hang on and secure a draw. It wouldn’t have been easy, but maybe, just maybe, they could’ve done it.
But the Galaxy had David Beckham. Poor Chicago never had a chance.
Pulling off one Olimpico goal in your career is enough to earn you distinction after you leave the game. David Beckham was known for these. It was his thing.
And that was that. Chicago tried to push back but, deep down, they knew their goose was cooked. Galaxy 2, Fire 1.
It was one game in a long season where the Galaxy didn’t have to work too hard to find material for their end-of-year highlight reel. But if you want one data point to show what Beckham brought to Major League Soccer, you can’t go wrong with this.
The Galaxy went on to win the Shield and then the MLS Cup. The Fire… well. You know.
After that campaign Becks put in one more shift in LA before moving to Paris Saint-Germain for the second half of their season, at the end of which he hung up his boots for the last time. Now he’s occupied with the— possibly hopeless— task of bringing an MLS franchise to Miami. Whether he succeeds or not, the question of what his effect on the league will no doubt be re-litigated. Lest you find yourself asking those same questions, it may be worth revisiting games like this before you get too deep in the weeds.