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Galaxy Statue, Fine; Beckham Instead of Landon, Not Fine

February 28th, 2019 · No Comments · Football, Galaxy, Journalism, Lakers, Landon Donovan, NBA, soccer, World Cup

The LA Galaxy on Saturday afternoon will unveil what is thought to be the first statue of a former player to be displayed at a Major League Soccer stadium.

The club said it will be No. 1 in “a series of statues” that will stand just outside the stadium in the new Legends Plaza at what is now called Dignity Health Sports Park. (Formerly, StubHub Center.)

This is a high honor. A tribute to the men who played for the club and helped it win those five MLS Cups, most in MLS history.

It is the Galaxy’s take on Star Plaza at Staples Center, which features no fewer than nine statues, including the two originals — of Magic Johnson of the Lakers and Wayne Gretzky of the Los Angeles Kings.

All well and good; an outdoor space with bigger-than-life statues can be a sort of tourist attraction — and also freeze in bronze a moment that represents what that player brought to the game.

All well and good, aside from this:

The Galaxy are beginning their statue collection with a bronzed David Beckham instead of the man who clearly was the club’s best player over a career, and his country’s greatest player, Landon Donovan.

I get it. Sorta.

Beckham, the English midfielder, is a global figure, and was so during and after his playing career, which ended in 2013.

I remember the excitement that greeted the announcement that he would join the Galaxy after leaving the Spanish club Real Madrid. I was one of the 700 people in the media horde that gathered in Carson for his introduction to Los Angeles, in the summer of 2007. (The night before, I had been picked up in a limousine so I could appear, live, on a British morning TV show, to talk about this Galaxy coup.)

Beckham joining the Galaxy arguably was the single biggest news story in the first dozen years of the club and MLS.

Most sophisticated international soccer fans already knew about the Galaxy and MLS, because it had been cherry-picking back-sides-of-their-careers players from the league’s 1996 inception. (In Year 1: Carlos Valderrama, Roberto Donadoni, Jorge Campos, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Marco Etcheverry, et al.) But chasing down Beckham’s signature on a five-season, $32.5 million contract, coming from Real Madrid to Los Angeles, was a roster move that brought new notoriety to the club and to the league.

However, in no way was anything he did with the Galaxy or in MLS … enough to rival his performances at a variety of bigger, better clubs, particularly Manchester United and Real.

Playing for the Galaxy, living in L.A., seemed more like a marketing move for the former England captain and husband of pop star Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham.

Also, Beckham now is an MLS insider; he is the biggest ownership name behind the MLS expansion club referred to as Inter Miami, which is expected to begin play in 2020.

But …

But … if the Galaxy wanted to honor the most influential player in club history, it would be unveiling a trophy of Landon Donovan two days from now.

Donovan and the Galaxy won a championship, in 2005, before Beckham arrived and won another, in 2014, after Beckham had moved on to Paris Saint-Germain, his last club. (Beckham, Donovan and the Galaxy won two, in 2011 and 2012.)

Beckham was the bigger name, but Donovan was the heart of the franchise from his joining the club, in 2005, right on through his final match, the championship game in 2014.

Donovan is the all-time leading scorer in MLS history, with 142 goals in 308 matches, and his MLS numbers dwarf those of Beckham, who scored 20 times in 118 matches with the Galaxy.

Back in 2005, Donovan’s arrival in Los Angeles was an earlier coup for the franchise and the league, which had pried him loose from Bayer Leverkusen. Donovan signed with the Bundesliga club when he was 16, but he wanted to help U.S. soccer move forward, which it did, after he made the Galaxy his home address.

Donovan holds the mark for most goals for his country with 57, in a tie with Clint Dempsey, in 157 appearances. Beckham’s totals for England were 17 goals in 115 matches.

Beckham once played in a World Cup quarterfinal in three trips to the planet’s greatest sports event. Donovan did the same — three World Cups, one quarterfinal.

At the end of the day, it is clear what the Galaxy wants from Beckham — one more dollop of that international attention that took hold in Manchester and eventually followed him to Real Madrid, arguably the greatest soccer club in the world.

Beckham wore odd clothes and strange haircuts. Donovan’s wild side was dying his hair blond when he was about 22. Beckham has square feet of tattoos; at last report, Landon had the one tiny thing of a hummingbird on his wrist.

Beckham talked about how only the game really mattered to him, especially after he took the step down (as it was seen in Europe) and joined the Galaxy, but Landon Donovan certainly spent less time at photo shoots and receptions, in a decade with the Galaxy and four more seasons (2001-04) in San Jose, while on loan from Leverkusen.

If we talk about someone who meant the most to the Galaxy it would be Landon Donovan. And early Galaxy stalwarts such as Cobi Jones and Cienfuegos would fit in there ahead of Beckham, too. And if you want an accent, Robbie Keane was an excellent player in his five years with the Galaxy, with 83 goals in 125 matches.

Presumably, Donovan will be next in line for the statue treatment, with Jones, Keane and Cienfuegos not far behind. Maybe Zlatan Ibrahimovic gets in there too, if he has another big year of highlight-reel goals.

A first Galaxy statue? Great.

Beckham instead of Donovan … gets it wrong.



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