Beckham out of sight before Galaxy debut

Beckham got treatment on his injured left ankle behind closed doors on Friday, while the rest of his teammates trained.

updated: July 22, 2007 06:50 IST
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Carson, California:

The man everyone came to see was nowhere in sight. And don't expect to see much of David Beckham in action when the Los Angeles Galaxy play Chelsea in the superstar's first scheduled game with his new team.

Beckham got treatment on his injured left ankle behind closed doors on Friday, while the rest of his teammates trained.

Beckham won't start Saturday night's exhibition, and whether he plays at all will be a last-minute decision, Galaxy coach Frank Yallop said.

"He desperately wants to play," Yallop said. "It won't be a big part in the game, we know that, because he hasn't trained for a number of weeks, but we're hoping he can get some time on the field."

So is the ESPN sports cable television channel, which has scheduled a veritable "Beckham Block" of programming for American audiences Saturday night. It will start with its "SportsCenter" sports news/highlight show at 9 pm Eastern time (0100 GMT), followed by an hour-long special called David Beckham: New Beginnings," a 30-minute pregame show and finally the match.

But Yallop cautioned that Beckham's health is the Galaxy's top priority, ahead of pleasing sponsors and broadcasters.

"What we won't do is put him in harm's way," the coach said. "If he's not ready to go, we cannot do that. I'm hoping that everything will be OK to at least get him on the field."

That could mean the 32-year-old midfielder plays just a few minutes in front of a sellout crowd of 27,000.

"At the moment it doesn't look good that I'm going to play because the swelling is still there," Beckham said at Thursday night's MLS All-Star Game in Colorado - a 2-0 friendly victory over Celtic. "I'm here for five years. I'm not just here for the game Saturday.

"It's great that Chelsea is here, but I think it's more important to me personally that my ankle is right, and I don't think it will be right for the game."

Beckham better

Yallop said Beckham is feeling "a lot better" than he did earlier in the week. The coach said the flight to Colorado didn't affect Beckham's ankle the way he feared it would.

"We're forever hopeful, obviously," Yallop said.

The Galaxy sorely need an on-field boost. They lost 3-0 to Mexican club team Tigres UANL on Tuesday as part of the opening doubleheader in the World Series of Football. Chelsea defeated the Suwon Bluewings 1-0 in the other game.

Saturday, the Tigres and Bluewings play in the first match, followed by Chelsea and the Galaxy. Chelsea captain John Terry has an injured toe, but will play.

"For the Galaxy, it will be a good experience," Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho said. "Normally they don't play against such good teams and such good players as Chelsea."

Mourinho said his team will go easy on Beckham if he gets in the game.

"Yeah, especially if at that moment we're in a comfortable situation," the coach said. "First, we want to win the game and play well. Second, we want to win the trophy. After that, we would like David Beckham to play, to play well, to play easy. We would like to help him on that front."

Mourinho joked, "If you can make a deal with him, we give him freedom to play, but he can't hurt us."

Beckham's absence from training denied about 70 American and British photographers and journalists their main target, so they pounced on Yallop and other Galaxy players.

Cobi Jones wasn't fazed by the chaos, having played in World Cups.

"My concern is for the younger players that really haven't experienced this kind of madness before, to see what it's going to be like for them," he said.

Midfielder Kyle Martino said the outside hype hasn't extended to the locker room, where Beckham has made a smooth transition.

"He's meshed with the team so well," Martino said. "He's been in on every conversation, he's outgoing, he's humble. To be the icon that he is and still be able to be the human being that he is, is something that everyone respects inside the locker room."

Defender Abel Xavier, who joined the Galaxy in May, played against Beckham in the English Premier League. He warned against expecting Beckham to single-handedly make soccer popular in America.

"We cannot put too much pressure on David Beckham because you know he's not a magic man. Football is a collective game," Xavier said. "All the players are important."

Try telling that to Raul Contreras, a 15-year-old soccer player from Compton who was bummed about Beckham's no-show.

"I hope he gets better because I really want to see him play against Chelsea," he said.