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“One of the exciting things about Beckham coming to the area is you can turn on the sports fan to soccer,” Lambert said. “A lot of times there is a mental block to get them to come out in the first place and enjoy it. Today, I’ve been able to talk to those people about membership.”

David Mackenzie of the District was trying to sell two extra tickets before the match yesterday because two of his other friends had a prior commitment. He had trouble selling them online, despite the demand.

“Some people were backing out,” Mackenzie said. “There were warning signs saying don’t buy the tickets because Beckham won’t play.”

Steve Chapman of Ashland, Va., banged a D.C. United drum outside RFK Stadium two hours before the match.

Chapman, who has attended United’s home games since the league started in 1996, correctly predicted Beckham would enter the game at about the 70th minute. He also said last night’s atmosphere was similar to United’s first MLS Cup victory.

But Chapman thought Beckham’s participation shouldn’t play a factor in a fan’s interest in soccer.

“In all honesty, the less knowledgeable fans don’t understand it,” Chapman said. “You don’t put a player in unless they’re 95 percent. You risk further injury and you risk your team losing. The league is doing what’s best for David Beckham, not what’s best for marketing or promotions.”

Beckham said he puts enough pressure on himself.

“There’s a certain amount of pressure because everybody has been talking about how I’ve come to the MLS and not played yet,” he said. “I don’t feel pressure in that sense. I put pressure on myself to get back and to get fit. But it’s great to be out here because it’s not nice to disappoint the fans who paid a lot of money to come see the games.”