Foxborough, Massachussets:English star David Beckham resumed his tour of American soccer benches on Sunday, sitting out the Los Angeles Galaxy's game against the New England Revolution to rest his tender left ankle.
Beckham has yet to start for the Galaxy since signing a five-year, $32.5 million contract to leave one of Europe's top leagues and give the sport a boost in the skeptical United States. He made his Major League Soccer debut on Thursday, but was back on the bench against New England.
The Revolution drew 35,402 for its 1-0 victory at Los Angeles, forcing many fans to buy four-game packs for the chance to see Beckham. A few in the front row behind the benches got the former England captain's autograph before the match, but the rest had to settle for a glimpse of him in a white T-shirt, chewing ice from a cup on the Los Angeles bench.
Robert Kraft, the owner of the Revolution and the NFL's New England Patriots, came over to greet Beckham just before the kickoff and brought along actors Dane Cook and Jason Biggs, who are filming the romantic comedy "Bachelor No 2" in Boston. Colby Jacobson, a New Hampshire high school junior, held up a sign that said, "Marry Me David."
Sixteen-year-old Dan Higgins said Beckham was the only reason he made the hour-long trip from Rhode Island.
"He's the best player in the league," Higgins said. "So yeah, I'm disappointed. On a disappointment scale of one to 10, I'd say it's about a nine."
But for other fans, the much-hyped signing seemed to have the effect that MLS officials hoped for when they brought Beckham across the pond.
"I think everyone wanted to see him play. But we're all big soccer fans, so it's just nice to be here and see so many people at a professional soccer game," said Joan Hopkins, who came with her daughter and three buses full of fans from the Portland, Maine, area. "Hopefully the interest in David Beckham will help build momentum in the popularity of the sport."
Kate Hopkins, 10, said she was "pretty bummed out" after traveling nearly three hours.
"I wanted to see him because he's a good player," she said, "but my mom thinks he's cute."
The 32-year-old Beckham sprained his ankle while playing for England in June, then aggravated while still with Real Madrid later that month. He played 21 minutes on Thursday as a substitute in a 1-0 loss to DC United, but tweaked it again.
"My ankle flared up a bit after the game the other day, and it's swollen up a little bit from flying," Beckham said Saturday after practicing in Foxborough. "We'll have to see how it is. It was fine running out there a little bit, but that's all I really tried on the field."
Beckham arrived at Gillette Stadium on the team bus, wearing his warmups like the rest of his Galaxy teammates. But he did not join them on the field for pregame warmups, and when the rosters for the match were announced about 40 minutes before the 7:00 pm local time kickoff, he was not listed as a starter or a substitute.
Among the disappointed were some of the Revolution players.
"It's exciting," New England defender Michael Parkhurst, who started against Los Angeles after missing one non-league game with a hyperextended knee said after practice on Saturday. "We grew up watching him, and obviously he's one of the best in the world."
Beckham's setback calls into question whether he will be able to play for England in an August 22 friendly against Germany or European Championship qualifiers against Israel on September 8 and Russia four days later.