CARSON, Calif. — It was the farewell before the farewell.
David Beckham will play his final MLS match on Saturday in MLS Cup 2012 against the Houston Dynamo (4:30 pm ET on ESPN, TeleFutura, TSN and RDS), but Thursday marked a formal send-off of sorts with the media.
In a half-hour press conference after training which featured only one question about MLS Cup, Beckham gave a review of his six-year MLS career and he gave a glimpse into his future as an owner, making one thing abundantly clear: He's an MLS guy through and through.
"Just because I’m not playing here anymore after the weekend, my commitment stays the same and I will do anything to keep these players coming over like Robbie Keane, like Thierry Henry," Beckham said at The Home Depot Center. "Anything I can do on that side of things, I want to do. I want to see this league continue to grow."
While Beckham says he still can't get used to calling the sport "soccer" in the USA, he says he's matured as a player during his time in MLS and his soccer mind has gotten quicker although "the legs might be a little bit slower."
Never afraid to tackle issues face on, he didn't shy away from expressing his thoughts about the treatment he received from Galaxy supporters in the tougher moments of his LA spell.
"I've never been booed by my own fans with other clubs, but I’ve had that at certain points here, and I overcame that," Beckham said. "It’s never a happy moment to be booed by your own fans and seeing some of the banners that were out there. … At the end of the day, I was happy that I turned it around, and I think now the majority of fans are on my side."
The fact that the Galaxy were able to turn around their fortunes was all down to Bruce Arena, according to Beckham. He says he owes it to Arena for changing the face of the Galaxy and bringing stability to the club at a time when the HDC "wasn't a great place to be."
And he also delivered a final message for Galaxy captain Landon Donovan, who has hinted he may be playing his final game as a professional on Saturday.
"Whether he needs a break, whether he needs to just step away from the game for a while and then come back, but at 30 years old he’s still young, and I hope he continues,” Beckham said. “Let’s hope that when he spoke about it, that he didn’t have the hunger like he used to, let’s hope it’s just a moment he had. Because from what I see when he’s on the field, the hunger is still there."
For Beckham, however, there will be no turning back. The English international admitted that he was on the verge of bringing the MLS chapter of his career to a close after last year’s MLS Cup triumph when it "felt the right time to step away." But a discussion with his family and the realization he had "some unfinished business" led to his return in 2012.
Saturday, however, will mark the definitive end.
"Now it feels right. It feels the right time that’s why I came to this decision," Beckham said. "My mind is set now. I believe that I’ve done everything that I can, succeeded in wining a championship and hopefully another championship on Saturday with the Galaxy."
As for what comes next, Beckham dispelled the notion that he would be joining the New York Cosmos — "that's definitely not true" — and he was oblivious to the latest rumored interest from French Ligue 1 club Monaco, which he said he heard about on the way to Thursday's training session.
Wherever he goes next, his six-year spell with the Galaxy will go down in history.
"I think it’s down to other people to decide what my impact on the game here has been," he said. "When I go back to Europe and England back in Christmas and I watch Sky Sports and they’re talking abut MLS and talking about the Galaxy, Seattle and Red Bull, there’s interest there now. If that’s what I brought to this league, then great."