The LA Galaxy greeted David Beckham's announcement Thursday that he is retiring by praising the English star for all his typical traits – his skills and his importance to Major League Soccer's growth and success – but most of all for positivity he brought with him to the LA locker room.
The former Galaxy midfielder, a pivotal figure in the team's two consecutive MLS Cup triumphs in 2011 and 2012, revealed Thursday that he will step away from the field when Paris Saint-Germain's season ends later this month, closing a 20-year career in which he won more than 20 trophies and league titles in four countries.
“Absolutely an amazing career, obviously,” midfielder Mike Magee said during a media session at the team's hotel in Hoboken, N.J., where the team is preparing for Sunday's game against the New York Red Bulls (1 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com). “Our league has a lot of amazing things to say about him, I'm sure, but the most important is just knowing this league wouldn't be close to where it is today without him.
"He's a great guy. [It] took me about 40 minutes to read all his accomplishments, and it didn't list anything that he's done off the field, so I think a lot more needs to be made of the kind of man he is, the person he is, and the father and friend and everything. It's a pleasure to know him.”
Beckham, 38, spent all or part of six seasons with the Galaxy, making 118 appearances in all and playing substantial roles in their pair title runs, plus two Supporters' Shields and an MLS Cup appearance in 2009. His ability to create space and find teammates in dangerous positions from anywhere on the field, coupled with an enviable work rate, helped define the club during its greatest era while bringing it and the league unprecedented attention.
“He had such a great career everywhere he's been,” said captain Robbie Keane, who noted that Beckham “got the ball rolling” on his 2011 move to the Galaxy during a training stint with Tottenham, Keane's previous club. “I think every player, every professional who's played in MLS, has to be appreciative of what he's done for the game. I think it's almost like what Tiger Woods has done for golf, if you will. David's done that for the MLS.”
Head coach Bruce Arena said that working daily with Beckham and experiencing his competitiveness, his leadership and seeing him “perform under pressure and the magnificent skill he demonstrated in free kicks and passing” was “very special and something we'll never forget.”
“Certainly, he brought recognition [to MLS] around the world. Everyone was quite aware of the fact that we had a professional league in the United States,” Arena said. “He helped elevate the quality of the league, obviously he helped elevate the focus on the league, and the league's growth during that period of time was unprecedented.”
“I think the way this league has turned around in the last, whatever, six years since he got here, it's black and white,” he said. “It's fair to say it's 100 percent because of him. Obviously, the league has taken the necessary steps to grow it steadily, but he made it make a huge jump. I could tell the difference easily between before he got here and now. It's not even close.”
Some of his teammates' warmest memories of Beckham, though, are of how down to earth he was. Landon Donovan says he loved watching Beckham interact with his children, who were regular presences at training and in the locker room.
“He would bring his kids into training a lot, and for me, I enjoyed that part a lot because it humanized him,” Donovan said. “A lot of times celebrities are put on a pedestal, and someone with his fame is seen in one way, but he's human and a father, just like many people are, and it was always nice to see him with his kids.”
Magee says he was impressed by “the charitable work he's done and all the lives he's changed,” usually well out of the public eye. Beckham donated his PSG salary this year to children's charities.
“I think the things on the field can speak for themselves,” Magee said, “but I think that the guy, the things he's done around the world and the way he's changed the game for the better, is amazing.”