- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 11, 2009

I’m just getting through the first pages of Grant Wahl’s book on David Beckham, which goes on sale Tuesday.

My antennae went up when I noticed that Frank Deford, the creme de la creme of soccer-bashers, endorsed “The Beckham Experiment.” I can only imagine that this read will give ammunition to those who belittle the game, arguing that the whole Beckham saga was just another failure in a long list of American soccer missteps. I hope I’m wrong.

The Los Angeles Galaxy weren’t getting just a talented player and media icon when they signed Beckham in 2007. The team got a multimillion-dollar industry, with all its machinery, middlemen and bodyguards.

Apparently it didn’t go quite as planned, and some folks - notably Galaxy star Landon Donovan and former general manager Alexi Lalas - felt they were dissed. Donovan seems to think Beckham should have shared some of his cash with the lower-earning players. And he ripped into Beckham for not providing more on the field last season, when the team missed the playoffs.

But the stats show Beckham appears to have done his fair share, helping the Galaxy notch a league-high 55 goals. Awful defense was the team’s undoing; it surrendered 62 goals.

Wahl’s book gives a behind-the-scenes look at how the Galaxy lured Beckham to MLS and then had to deal with him and his handlers once he arrived. How the team got Beckham through Los Angeles International Airport on game days paints an amusing picture. Beckham rode in first class, of course; most of the rest of the team traveled in coach. That quickly changed, and all the travel and hotels were upgraded for the whole team.

I’m not convinced by Wahl’s argument that Beckham tried to save American soccer. He gave MLS more attention than it ever dreamed of, but American soccer didn’t need to be saved. The game has its niche and appears to be doing well.

The U.S. team put on an impressive display at the Confederations Cup to reach its first FIFA tournament final, and all the big European clubs are heading this way for their summer tours. Something must be going right.

And the experiment is far from over.

Beckham is expected back with the Galaxy next week following his loan to AC Milan. Coach Bruce Arena appears to have fixed the Galaxy’s defense, and with Beckham and Donovan teaming up again, the club should be fun to watch.

But before all that, Beckham and Donovan will have to have a serious conversation. Donovan already regrets comments he made in the book.

“What I feel badly about is that I should have been a man and told David how I felt as opposed to telling a reporter,” he told the Los Angeles Times this week. “Obviously, the lesson I learned is that it’s not something that needs to be public. It’s something we need to figure out within the team, and it will get solved.”

Americans overseas - After starting two games with the U.S. team in the Gold Cup, Freddy Adu is heading back to Portugal for preseason training with his club, Benfica.

Crystal Palace is taking a look at Fulham’s Eddie Johnson, who was on loan to Cardiff last season.

The Sun tabloid of London reported that Everton is trying to lure Clint Dempsey away from Fulham.

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