Donovan likes Galaxy's depth as L.A. preps for Timbers clash
David Beckham and Landon Donovan are giants in world and American soccer. Up close after Tuesday's practice at Jeld-Wen Field, though, they looked much less imposing.
At 5-8, 155 pounds, shy and with a receding hairline, Donovan looked as much like a flute player in a marching band as a striker.
At 6-0, 170 pounds, Beckham had a bigger presence than Donovan. But the magnetism he portrays in Armani underwear adds was nowhere to be found in the British midfielder's persona after the Los Angeles Galaxy's training session for Wednesday's 8 p.m. match against the Portland Timbers. With his arms completely covered in tattoos, Beckham could have been confused for a garage-band drummer.
It is when Beckham and Donovan step onto the pitch that they earn their reputation. Donovan is a masterful composer, specializing in crescendos of big-time, unexpected goals. Beckham is a rock star whose bending passes and shots inspired the movie title 'Bend it like Beckham.'
The two have made significant strides to eradicate this nation's apathy toward professional soccer. And this season, they are the engine of the Galaxy who own the best record in MLS (12-2-9, 45 points).
'They're talented players,' Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said Tuesday. 'They're good attacking players. David is known for his passing. Landon has a reputation for scoring goals. But their leadership is equally as valuable for the team. I've been here for a little over two years now with the Galaxy. We've experienced a lot of success, and it's attributed to the leadership and the quality of those two players.'
With Beckham and Donovan on the pitch, Wednesday's match could be as big as any Portland will play this season.
Donovan said he realizes the Galaxy will get the best shot of the Timbers (6-10-4, 22 points). It is the same thing he expects from any opposing club.
'For most places we go, it would make the team's season if they beat us,' Donovan said. 'We're very used to that. We're excited for it. We use it as an advantage - having a crowd that's fired up. We use the energy in a good way and try to use the momentum to win.'
Donovan is tied for the league lead in goals this season with 11. The 29-year-old has shown a knack for scoring dramatic goals for the national team. He does not feel his World Cup success has made clubs play differently against him. But having weapons such as Beckham and striker Juan Pablo Angel around him has made Donovan's job easier with the Galaxy.
'Most of my career, guys have played the same way against me,' Donovan said. 'With our team, we're fortunate that we've got a bunch of guys who can make plays. In the past, if there was just one or two of us, teams could put emphasis on shutting us down, and it would be difficult to score.'
It is hard to think of an athlete with more star power than Beckham. A fashion advertisement poster boy, an attendee of royal weddings and a husband to former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice), at times Beckham's celebrity has outshined his play.
Still, one of the reasons Beckham has continued playing soccer is the reaction of fans each time he steps onto the pitch.
'It's great,' he said. 'It's what gives me a buzz. It's one of the reasons I'm still playing the game that I love and have played for many years. I love going into stadiums and them being full and a packed house and the atmosphere.
'I'm 36 years old and I still love the game and love playing the game and love training the way I did when I was 21. Until that changes, I'll continue to play.'
Beckham missed most of the 2010 season while recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon that he suffered while on loan to AC Milan. Healthy now, Beckham is second in MLS assists (eight). He has found that he has been able to keep up his fitness through hard work on the training field and the rigors of parenthood.
'I've got three boys with a lot of energy in the house, and they keep me very fit,' said the smiling father, who also welcomed a daughter, Harper Seven, in early July.
'On a serious note,' Beckham continued, 'I've always looked after myself. I've always worked hard. Whatever game I'm involved in, I give 110 percent, wherever I'm playing, whatever league I'm playing in, whatever team I'm playing in.
'I've obviously been lucky throughout my career. I've not had too many bad injuries. Obviously, picking that one up last year was difficult. But apart from that, I've been very lucky throughout my career.'
Playing in the final year of his five-year contract with the Galaxy, Beckham said he would love to continue playing beyond this season.
'I'm just going have to see how my body feels at the end of this season,' he said. 'After the injury last year, it's been tough getting back to full fitness. But I feel great right now. So if I continue to feel great, then I'll continue to play.'
Even with the Galaxy chomping at the bit to finally win a championship, Beckham said he does not believe there is an undue amount of pressure on the club.
'There's no urgency, but we always want to win championships,' he said. 'We've been close the last couple of years. It's just that finishing touch. We've got a good team, we've got a good squad of players. Everyone wants to win a championship. We hope it's going to come this season.'
More important to MLS than the Galaxy winning a championship, or Beckham's assists, or Donovan's goals, is the way Donovan and Beckham have begun making MLS a major-league sport in this country.
'This league is growing all the time,' Donovan said. 'What was once a second-class, or a minor-league type of league, we've now become a real league. We have real players, real coaches, real stadiums, real fans, real media. It's fun to be a part of this, and it's fun to help grow this.'