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I can’t deny that I have a soft spot for anything soccer related. I tend to write a rather large proportion of my articles about the sport, and I’ve been lucky lately because there has actually been relevant news. However, since the beginning of this whole Landon Donovan and David Beckham “controversy” I can’t help but roll my eyes at the whole thing. So hopefully I’ll be able to make this my last article about David Beckham, I think Norman Chad over at Sports Illustrated would agree:

The way I see it, you’ve just pulled off one of the greatest scams in U.S. history. You signed a massive five-year contract, you took a lot of money from a lot of people and, in the end, you were pretty much a marketing mirage.

Essentially, you’re Bernie Madoff with a bicycle kick.

In 2007, you had no goals and two assists and the Galaxy finished with the league’s third-worst record, 9-14-7. In 2008, you had five goals and 10 assists and the Galaxy tied for the league’s worst record, 8-13-9.

Not exactly impressive, plus given the English media’s coverage of this, it’s become some sort of international incident. Anyway, David Beckham, I can’t really blame you for your behavior around here. You were certainly charming, but I don’t see anybody caring about American soccer anymore than I used to. I’d say you failed in that, but I don’t think that’s what all this was about. In any case, happy trails. Enjoy your time in Milan, I know it’s quite posh around there.

Update: Oh, he’s still here for a little bit longer. My bad.

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Beckham and Donovan unhappy with one another


Much has happened during David Beckham’s five-month absence from the L.A. Galaxy. After the painstaking and very public negotiations between the Galaxy and AC Milan, Beckham was able to play for the Italian club, much to the disdain of his American fans and teammates. In an upcoming book entitled “The Beckham Experiment,” Landon Donovan is quoted as calling his teammate a bad captain who is also stingy. Apparently, Beckham is not too pleased.

“It’s unprofessional in my eyes. In every soccer player’s eyes throughout the world it would be unprofessional to speak out about a teammate especially in the press and not to your face,” Beckham said.

“But I’m going to turn it on a positive spin because that’s what this needs. But in 17 years, I have played with the biggest teams in the world and the biggest players and not once have I been criticized for my professionalism. It’s important to get this cleared up and I will be speaking to Landon either this evening or over the next couple of days.”

The Galaxy plays Chivas USA on Saturday, with Beckham returning to his first practice with the team on Monday.

And what about playing with Donovan?

“I’m personally very professional when I am on the field. I don’t care what people say about me off the field, once I’m on the field I’m professional and if there is a chance for him to score, I will be giving him the ball. Me and Landon will talk, but that will be a private conversation.”

Jesus, this whole situation with Beckham and the Galaxy has been horrible, hasn’t it? Donovan had every right to criticize his teammate, but sometimes you wonder why these guys choose to go to media instead of confronting one another man-to-man. I can understand why Beckham would be irritated, but at this point he should be getting used to this type of response.

Michael Jackson, David Beckham, the USA Men’s Soccer Team. How are these things related?

Most people in America, and especially Los Angeles (thanks to bus advertisements everywhere), know that David Beckham plays for the LA Galaxy. The only problem is that he kinda doesn’t. With all his English national team World Cup qualifiers and his loan to AC Milan, his MLS season is about as long as a cocktail weenie.

After the tragic death of Michael Jackson last week, David Beckham’s future in American soccer has been called into question. How could these two seemingly unrelated things be related? Well, SPORTSbyBROOKS has all the answers. Due to spatial constraints, let me give you a quick summation: AEG is a corporation operating concert venues/events worldwide, including all those canceled comeback concerts in England with Michael Jackson. Davd Beckham has been a flop since arriving in America, his potential for igniting interest in soccer in America has fizzled. He is now a financial drain on his team.

And, of course, the owners of the Los Angeles Galaxy that could really use the cash on this year’s balance sheet to offset losses in other parts of the business… AEG.

On top of it all, the best thing that could happen to the popularity of U.S. soccer is happening today in South Africa as the U.S. men’s national team takes on Brazil for the chance to hoist their first international soccer cup in modern history. AEG didn’t need to invest in David Beckham to raise soccer’s profile in America; they needed to invest in U.S. Soccer. (Or better insurance.)

Hell yeah. Despite our loss to Brazil in the final today. I can’t agree more with Brooks’ sentiment that we should look to America for American soccer. While we don’t have nearly the farm system of the global soccer powerhouses like Spain and Brazil, the infrastructure is certainly there, as well as the ability. Remember when American ice hockey was laughable when compared to the USSR? Neither do I, being born in ’82 and all. But I saw the movie. Well hey, where did that go?

Having been a fan of American soccer since the ’96 (update: my bad, 94) World Cup here, I’ve never been able to talk much about it with other people. This past week, once I told them what had happened with Spain, I’ve never felt as much interest and enthusiasm for an upcoming soccer match as this morning. Keep it up America (and the LA Galaxy’s real hero, Landon Donovan) and good luck next month when we play our southern rivals, Mexico.

And as long as we’re on the subject of Michael Jackson and USA soccer, you gotta check out this memorial jersey.

Landon Donovan returning to the Galaxy

MLS star Landon Donovan, who spent the last two months on loan with former German soccer champions Bayern Munich, has returned to the Los Angeles Galaxy. Though Donovan led the MLS with 20 goals scored the prior season, his performance with the German club in competitive matches was less than stellar. Unlike his Galaxy teammate David Beckham (who was asked by AC Milan to return), Bayern Munich has decided to pass on Donovan.

“I’m very excited to be back,” Donovan said after practice at the Home Depot Center. “I had a good time in Germany. It was a very interesting experience for a lot of reasons. Some good, some bad.

“You always wonder if you’re capable of playing on that level, and it quickly became apparent that I was and that I enjoyed it. But there is something distinctly different about the environment here” in the U.S.

“One of the building blocks of our team is now here,” said Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena, who can begin the serious work of putting together a starting 11 for the March 22 opener against D.C. United in Carson.

The Galaxy has failed to make the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, and Arena, who was hired last August as coach and general manager and subsequently became Donovan’s Manhattan Beach neighbor, has dismantled last-season’s side and started virtually from scratch.

“It’s going to take time for all of us to get to know each other and make adjustments,” he said. “I believe half our team is new, and that’s difficult. So it’s going to be important that early in the season we stick together.

I think I was one of the few who thought Donovan would be so successful in Germany that he would never return to the MLS. It’s funny how quickly professional soccer players can get the axe. Donovan only played in 11 matches (five friendly, six competitive) during his two-month stint in Germany and Bayern management quickly felt the relationship wasn’t working.

These types of overseas experiments are much different with the NBA and MLB. There’s no such thing as having a player on “loan.” Foreign talent is frequently signed (sometimes a bit too quickly), often to monster-sized contracts a la Daisuke Matsuzaka. If the player fails to produce, the owner is bound to a contract, whereas soccer clubs seem to simply pay players on loan on a per match basis. These “experiments” between professional soccer leagues seem logical actually, especially in these economic times. To owners, players are nothing more than an investment that may or may not reap rewards.

To be fair, Donovan did score a combined four goals in his five friendly matches in Germany. I expected Donovan to do well abroad, especially since their approach to the game suits his style of play. Oh well. At least the most dominant goal scorer in the MLS has returned to the team that needs him the most.

2008 Year-End Sports Review: What We Think Might Happen

It’s time to look ahead to 2009 and play a little Nostradamus.

Last year, we predicted that God would anoint the “Devil-free” Rays World Series Champions (ding!), that Brett Favre would play another year or two (ding! – sort of), that Isiah Thomas would be canned (ding!), and that Kobe would be playing for a new team by the trade deadline…

Granted, that last one didn’t come true, but how were we supposed to know that the Grizzlies would trade Pau Gasol to the Lakers for an unproven rookie and a bag of peanuts? Our occasional inaccuracy isn’t going to keep us from rolling out another set of predictions – some serious and some farcical – for 2009 and beyond, including President Obama’s plan for a college football playoff, Donovan McNabb’s new home and the baseball club most likely to be 2009’s version of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Read on, and in a year, we guarantee* you’ll be amazed.

*This is not an actual guarantee, mind you.

Don’t miss the other two parts of our 2008 Year-End Sports Review: “What We Learned” and “What We Already Knew.”

Michael Vick will play for the Oakland Raiders next season.

Once NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell allows suspended quarterback Michael Vick to re-enter the league, let’s be honest, there’s really only one team that will take a shot on the convict: the Oakland Raiders. Sure, the Raiders would have to possibly give up a draft pick because Vick will still technically be property of the Falcons, but with Matt Ryan on board, Atlanta would probably be willing to give Mikey up for a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos…snack size. With Vick on board, JaMarcus Russell could shift to tight end or full back or offensive tackle or something. Or, Vick could play wide receiver! Or running back! Think of the possibilities! The Oakland Raiders will be the most unstoppable team in the league! That is, of course, until Vick gets the itch for his old hobby. – Anthony Stalter

The Nationals and Pirates become the official AAAA teams of their respective divisions.

After finishing at or near the bottom of the division since the franchise’s move from Montreal, Major League Baseball executives analyze the entire Washington Nationals player system and conclude that they have no chance of fielding a competitive team in the near future. In the boldest decision of his tenure, Commissioner Bud Selig demotes the team’s Major League roster to AAAA status, a phrase long used by baseball personnel to describe players that are too good for the minors but not good enough for the majors. In an added twist, Selig designates that the team’s assets are fair game for all four remaining teams in the National League East, as a means of creating parity. In order to keep the number of teams even in each league, Selig also downgrades the Pittsburgh Pirates, losers of 94 or more games since 2005, to AAAA status as well. It will be six weeks into the regular season before an NL East team claims any of these former Pirates or Nationals. – David Medsker

Barack Obama will have a plan in place for a college football playoff by 2016.

He has already spoken out twice in favor of an eight-team playoff format for college football. Granted, there are more pressing concerns for the President-elect – the economy, the war in Iraq and a forward-thinking energy policy, just to name a few – but there’s no reason that Obama can’t appoint a “Playoff Czar” to get the conference presidents and the bowl organizers together to hash out a system that works for everyone. Are the bowls worried about losing money? Rotate the semifinals and the final amongst the four bowl cities. Are the conferences worried about losing money? They shouldn’t be – the ratings for an eight-team playoff would dwarf the ratings the current system is getting. And better ratings means more money. This is something that 85%-90% of the population can agree on, and that doesn’t happen often. Mark our words – President Obama will make it happen, especially if he gets a second term. – John Paulsen

Read the rest after the jump...

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