Mr. Beckham (finally) comes to North Texas.
First, here's a little background. Last season, FC Dallas played in Superliga, a made-for-TV tournament pitting MLS teams against Mexican teams. For a variety of reasons, these two leagues' futures are intertwined, though there is still much more money in the Mexican game right now. It ended up being a fun tournament, with in-season MLS teams holding their own against late-preseason Mexican clubs, and the $1,000,000 prize enough to motivate the players who took the field (many veterans and national teamers on the Mexican squads were held out, especially in the early group-stage games). LA and Dallas were in the same group, and Beckham was scheduled to make his only appearance in Dallas in the LA versus Dallas group stage match. The Dallas front office promoted this game like they have never promoted anything before. It was frankly kind of frustrating, as Dallas were in form in the league at the time, but only a scrawny English deadball specialist who plays for a different team could warrant a billboard on the highway. Whether it was the marketing or just the general cult of celebrity surrounding Becks, the game was an instant sellout with tickets going for well above the standard going rate. Fans of Man U and Real Madrid, celebrity-loving soccer moms, and thousands of other people who couldn't name a single player off the FC Dallas roster.
Needless to say, when Becks bowed out with an injury, these people were not happy. People were demanding refunds and complaining about a bait and switch, and the FC Dallas front office learned a valuable lesson about overpromoting, and trust me, this is not a typical problem for FC Dallas. To top it all off, LA won a ridiculous but fun match at Pizza Hut Park, 6-5 (ask me about Landon Donovan sometime).
Afterwards, FC Dallas and the Galaxy managed to put together a preseason friendly for charity to stem the Public Relations bleeding, with FC Dallas agreeing to give free tickets to anyone who had bought tickets to the Superliga match, and fortunately for FC Dallas, Becks has been healthy. Not that it really matted, of course. Once word was out that one of Fabio Capello's little helpers would be watching the game in Dallas, ol' Goldenballs would have had to be missing a leg before he'd miss this game. I think I may actually have heard the sighs of relief in Frisco from my house 50 miles away.
As the wife and I had got our tickets to last year's game on the secondary market for a very good price once people had found out there would be no Beckham, we didn't have free tickets to this game, so we just caught this one on the streaming internet video FC Dallas provided. It was a pretty good game for a preseason warmup. FCD's manager Steve Morrow is implementing a new formation with a three-man back line and trying to get more width in the midfield. While the finishing was sub-par even for MLS standards, the crosses were flying in and there was a lot of activity in LA's defensive half. Frankly, I'm encouraged, especially since Dallas keeper Dario Sala played lights-out, making several great saves. Beckham, as could be expected in a match where he was trying to prove his fitness, was everywhere: tracking back to defend in his penalty area, advancing all the way upfield (to the point of being caught offside twice), and I swear at one point I saw that son of a bitch intercept a pass from his own teammate intended for a differeant Galaxy player.
The game ended 0-0, but there were a lot of chances for both sides. LA's defense is not well-thought-of (almost half of the Gals' salary cap is spent on three offensive players), but I am optimistic that with a few more games together, FC Dallas will have a better offense this year than last and a defense that is at least no worse. Go Hoops!