Are David Beckham’s contributions on the field underrated?

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On the latest Big Head Red Head podcast, featuring former U.S. internationals Taylor Twellman and Alexi Lalas, the analysts discussed whether David Beckham’s contributions between the white lines have been underrated?

It’s a fair question, because so much of the Beckham narrative (when it comes to MLS, that is) focusses on his achievement in matters of media, marketing and Madison Ave. Lesser discussed, it seems, is Beckham’s good deeds on game day.

ESPN’s Marc Connolly, third member of the podcast, suggests that the Galaxy midfielder’s achievement on the field is vastly underrated. He especially lamented how many of the Beckham articles of the last few days mention his goal and assist totals. The numbers are just a tiny bit modest (18 goals, 40 assists in 98 matches), although not terribly so for a holding midfielder, which is more or less the position Bekcham assumed two years ago for the Galaxy.

Said Connolly: “I just felt, going into every game, he was the player you wanted on your team. He was the best guy.”

One explanation for the disconnect: Performance-wise, the Galaxy was fairly miserable in Beckham’s first two seasons, finishing one spot off the bottom in the West over the former England captain’s first two seasons, 2007 and 2008. Given the difficulty in circling individual achievement on a team that stinks, we all got into the habit of directing our analytical efforts to the business side of Major League Soccer’s Beckham gambit.

But the point is well made otherwise. Holding midfielders are always in a black hole, so to speak, in terms of recognition. They do so many little things – well, good ones do, that is – in terms of cover and linking. That linking is frequently more difficult than it looks, although smart, early movement upon claiming possession makes it less problematic. And that’s Beckham.

One other quick point: Beckham’s influence has waned slightly this year. His free kick and corner kick deliveries remain sharp, but he has adopted more of a supporting role, a response to those sands of time that slip inexorably away.

The man is 37, after all.

So, if there was a sweet spot in discussing Beckham between the white lines, it was probably this time last year.