It has been almost a month since the Los Angeles Galaxy's David Beckham returned to southern California, and the controversy surrounding him finally appears to have lost its intensity. The swarm of media members that hounded him after his first L.A. practice of 2009 has been reduced to small groups at best, but that doesn't necessarily mean the so-called circus has left town for good.
"It still is a circus," Beckham said with a smile. "That's what it is. You just have to get on with it and do your work on the training field, then everything fits into place.''
The veteran Englishman, who turned 34 in early May, has been brilliant since he came back. He has one assist in two regular-season games, but it has been his play in friendlies against AC Milan (a 2-2 tie) and FC Barcelona (a 2-1 loss last Saturday in front of more than 93,000 at the Rose Bowl) that perhaps has swayed many of his most passionate detractors to his side.
Beckham said it's time to get on with the business at hand, however -- namely a playoff push that begins with a difficult five-game stretch that includes games at New England on Saturday, at home against Seattle on Aug. 15, at Chicago on Aug. 19, at D.C. United on Aug. 22 and at home against Chivas USA on Aug. 29.
"It's important we continue the hard work that's got us in the position we're in now," he said of the Galaxy, who are third in the West, one point behind second-place Seattle. "We just need to concentrate and focus on the games we've got coming up and get as many points on the board as possible.
"If we can continue that, then we can think about where we're going. We need to continue the hard work, then hopefully it will happen for us.''
Beckham said he has been impressed with not only the Galaxy's talent level but its togetherness through a difficult time that included fan abuse to the fallout from a new book in which his teammates criticized his commitment to the club. He and the players appear to have moved on from that period of tension, and Beckham appears to be happy.
Much of that attitude is because he feels the Galaxy are much-improved from a year ago, when the club finished 8-13-9 and missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season. They currently are 6-3-10 and haven't been beaten since a 2-1 loss to San Jose on June 20.
"Without a doubt we're better," he said. "We've got a squad of players that when players do leave for international duty they can come in and keep us stable. That's a big improvement.
"These players are not frightened to play themselves. They don't have to give the ball to Landon (Donovan) or myself all the time, and that's good to see. It shows the confidence in each other and it shows the confidence in the team we've got."
His teammates say they have been impressed with Beckham's steadfastness.
"Things will never quiet down around him," Chris Klein said. "This is his life, and he's earned that attention. He knows how to function within that sphere that he's in. First and foremost in his mind outside of his family is the soccer part of it. It shows in the way he trains and the way he conducts himself as a professional, and I think the guys can look and learn from that."
Chris Burchall said Beckham's perseverance has been especially noteworthy to him.
"He'll probably admit to anyone these last few weeks have been probably one of the toughest times in his career," Birchall said. ``I don't think in the few weeks he's been here he's come under the kind of criticism that he has.
"He's learned wherever he's been in his career to ignore it and get on with what he's here to do, and that's play football. And he's doing a great job of it."
Larry Morgan is a contributor to MLSnet.com.