As First Kick, presented by Dick's Sporting Goods approaches, MLSsoccer.com is marking each passing day with a different statistic, observation or talking point, setting the stage for the beginning of the 2012 MLS campaign.
15 – Assists by David Beckham in 2011, his MLS career high
The David Beckham that showed up in 2011 is the David Beckham fans had been waiting for since he arrived in MLS with the LA Galaxy five years ago.
Sure, the English superstar had shown flashes of his quality and masterful touch, most notably in 2008, his first full season in the league. Beckham scored five goals – including one from about 70 yards away – and added a team-best 10 assists that year, but LA still failed to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Two loan stints with AC Milan in 2009 and 2010 – and a serious left Achilles tendon tear in his second go-around with the Italian club – limited Beckham’s participation in MLS both those years to just 11 and seven matches, respectively, as he tried to remain in the England national team picture.
Beckham did reach the MLS Cup 2009 final with the Galaxy, but rather than making a good impression on the field for LA, he made a bad impression on the minds of supporters, who waved banners calling him a “fraud” and a “part-time player.”
But there’s a reason why Beckham won MLS’ Comeback Player of the Year award in 2011.
Heading into the season, the Galaxy required Beckham to be with the team beginning in the preseason – LA reportedly blocked a loan move to Tottenham, with whom Beckham trained during the offseason – and the decision paid off big.
Having built solid chemistry with Landon Donovan and the rest of his Galaxy teammates early in the spring, especially with holding midfielder Juninho, Beckham settled into central midfield and took the team’s reins, scoring twice – including one from a corner kick – and dishing out 15 assists, one shy of Silver Boot winner Brad Davis' total with the Houston Dynamo.
While he may not have won the prize for top feeder, Beckham did lead LA to a second consecutive Supporters' Shield and, in the playoffs alone, added another four assists, including one in the MLS Cup final to help LA lift the trophy.
Beckham, who signed a new two-year deal with LA in January, will turn 37 years old in May, but all the pieces are in place for him to repeat or best his numbers from last year. Donovan is back from his Everton loan stint, Robbie Keane will be with the Galaxy for a full season, the club re-acquired Juninho on another loan deal and Edson Buddle is back in an LA kit.
All that’s left is for Beckham to bend it.
The LA Galaxy open their 2012 season at The Home Depot Center on March 10 against Real Salt Lake. GET TICKETS!
WATCH: Beckham curls in a corner kick