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Goals, assists revives Beckham interest in US

Just when media interest appeared to be fading, the English midfielder revived it by scoring his first goal and notching three assists in two games last week.

india Updated: Aug 22, 2007 15:08 IST

A month into his hugely publicised arrival with the Los Angeles Galaxy, David Beckham has finally made a splash on the field.

His timing was impeccable.

Just when media interest appeared to be fading, the English midfielder revived it by scoring his first goal and notching three assists while playing major minutes in two games last week.

Beckham's first goal for the Galaxy came in a 2-0 North American SuperLiga victory over DC United last Wednesday, his first start for his new team.

That bending free kick led to a fresh round of next-day video replays across the United States on everything from sports highlights programs to the tabloid news shows.

"I have scored a lot of important goals in my career, big goals in my career, and this ranks among them," he said. "I wanted to get off to a good start with the team and with the fans."

Then he drew 66,237 to Giants Stadium for his first Major League Soccer start. Beckham set up two goals, but the Galaxy lost 5-4 to the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.

"Oh, yeah, there's tremendous pressure," Galaxy general manager Alexi Lalas said.

"We're not naive to the fact that a lot of people want to see him and that there's a lot of people buying tickets specifically to see him."

The initial Beckham media interest quickly died because of a left ankle injury that relegated the former England captain to the bench for much of his first month.

He played a total of 37 minutes in two token appearances in his first eight games, disappointing fans in sellout crowds who were forced to buy tickets for multiple games just to see Beckham.

His first extended road trip drew an average of 42,211 fans to Toronto, Washington, New England and New York, although he sat out in Toronto and New England.

Beckham hopes his ankle is well enough for him to make his 97th appearance for England against Germany in London on Wednesday night.

Then he'll fly across eight time zones to try to make Thursday's night MLS game against Chivas USA in Carson.

Not only are fans buying tickets - although just 17,223 saw his first goal in Carson - they're also purchasing No. 23 jerseys.

Even with his injury, merchandise sales are up 700 per cent for the Galaxy this season and 300 per cent league-wise because of Beckham, according to MLS.

However, until the most scrutinised left ankle in sports is fully healed, Beckham may continue to play in fits and starts, prompting more of the criticism that's been directed at him and the team.

"It's unfair," Galaxy midfielder Peter Vagenas said. "If it were truly up to him, and if it were medically the right thing to do, he would have been out there a long time ago."

Beckham didn't practice with the team for the first time until last week. Before then, the Galaxy had limited media access to Beckham to news conferences.