CARSON, Calif. – Falling behind early, not dealing well with New York and suffering through back pain was perhaps a worst-case scenario for David Beckham on Thursday.
Despite dealing with such challenges, though, Beckham helped the Galaxy prevail against a feisty and determined New York side as LA had a come-from-behind 2-1 victory and claimed the series with a 3-1 aggregate win over the Red Bulls.
“We started off bad and it wasn’t what we’d planned,” Beckham said. “It was disappointing to start, but I think the way we adjusted ourselves showed character in our players and our team.”
The Red Bulls were having their way a bit with the Galaxy in the early going as Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers were doing well to get behind the hosts. But they settled down and shook off the early goal.
“We played a lot better once we got into the game, once we calmed down, once our nerves calmed down,” Beckham said.
Still, that calming feeling was threatened somewhat by Beckham’s health. Early in the match, he twisted and contorted his body going up for a challenge against New York’s Dane Richards. At about the half-hour mark, Beckham collapsed and several minutes later collapsed again.
“I just headed the ball wrong and that was it. It was my back more than anything,” Beckham said. “I headed the ball, but obviously I’ve had issues in my back all season and it was just a spasm in my lower back.”
Hobbled and all, Beckham recovered enough to swing a corner kick to the front of the goal in the 42nd minute, a cross that Mike Magee buried to put the Galaxy ahead on the aggregate for good.
“Mike gets in the right positions. He knows how to play this game,” Beckham said. “We’re lucky to have him on this team.”
Beckham was no worse for the wear in the second half, showing no signs of injury or any discomfort at all. Late in the game, he drew a penalty kick when Roy Miller kicked at him from behind.
“I was surprised because, obviously, I was in the penalty area and I was surprised to find his boot around my ear,” Beckham said.
Landon Donovan converted the spot kick and the Galaxy breathed a sigh of relief afterward.
The Galaxy will now host Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Championship on Sunday (9 pm ET; ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN2; live chat on MLSsoccer.com). While the short time between matches is difficult, it’s a challenge they will confront with a grin.
“We’re happy to have this problem,” Beckham said. “Ideally, I’m sure Salt Lake would be the same – they’d prefer a few days rest. But it is what it is and we’re happy to be in the position we’re in.”
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @RunnerLuis