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MLS Cup 2011: David Beckham Returns To Practice

For many, the story of today’s practice came without quotes or cliches. The mere fact that David Beckham was at practice today was enough to write the headlines. Now the question becomes just how much of his body does he have to give on Sunday? Will Landon Donovan’s body allow him to return to midseason form?

Perhaps the bigger overall question, and the one that gets asked repeatedly, concerns whether this is a make or break year. Certainly it’s being painted as Beckham’s last hurrah, but it is difficult to keep players in MLS. The Galaxy lost Edson Buddle last year, and didn’t find a suitable replacement until midseason. Manager Bruce Arena didn’t think it was such a finale.

"We lost Edson Buddle last year, and I was told that the roof is caving in. The year before we lost players. It’s all part of it. I think with exception to the big clubs of the world, that don’t have to trade players to reach a cap or they need the funding, most teams have changes every year."

Certainly it is quite remarkable that the Galaxy have been able to keep so much of their core together for three great runs. In the case of their centerbacks, the Galaxy had a fortunate draft in 2009. The LA Galaxy had a disappointing 2008 which saw them finish sixth in the Western Conference. This gave them the favorable position to draft Omar Gonzalez with the third pick in the draft.

The Galaxy faced a difficult situation in the second round. Carlos Ruiz was a Golden Boot winner and MVP in the Galaxy’s 2002 season, and the Galaxy thought it was worth it in 2008 to trade their second round pick and allocation money to get him back from FC Dallas. Most notable about Ruiz’ comeback tour is his injury gave rise to Edson Buddle’s star. Ruiz was traded to Toronto in the midseason transfer window.

The Galaxy still had their hearts set on the pair of Maryland defensive backs, and so traded three players to get the fourth pick in the second round which they used to snatch up AJ DeLaGarza. As important as Beckham and Donovan have been on offense, the young pair of backs have been equally instrumental.

"We thought Omar and AJ were the top two centerbacks in the draft," said Bruce Arena.

Bruce Arena also used the fourth pick of the 2008 MLS Superdraft to select Sean Franklin. As much as has been made about the Galaxy throwing large dollar figures around internationally, the record setting back line for Los Angeles features four draft picks.

Of the many things that can be said about Bruce Arena, one key is that he has a great eye for talent. As the Galaxy go for their third star above their crest, against arguably the most successful MLS franchise of the last decade, the tagline is simple.

This game isn’t good for soccer in the United States. This game is proof that soccer in the United States is good.