CARSON, Calif. – The Los Angeles Galaxy's miserable start to the MLS season could be set for another downturn with potential cracks in the relationship between star midfielder David Beckham and head coach Bruce Arena starting to show.
Beckham suffered the embarrassment of being substituted at halftime of the team's 3-1 home defeat against the New England Revolution on Saturday night and left the Home Depot Center without speaking to reporters.
Arena admitted that the decision to replace Beckham with youngster Michael Stephens had angered the 36-year-old former England international, who signed a two-year extension to his Galaxy contract after flirting with French side Paris Saint-Germain over the winter.
"I'm sure he is not pleased about it," said Arena, whose defending MLS Cup champion side sits at 1-2-0 in league play, with both defeats having come at home. "But that's not the issue in the game. The issue in the game was that 11 players from New England soundly outplayed 11 players from the Galaxy. I don't [know] of any players that would be happy about coming out at halftime."
There have been few instances in Beckham's long career when he has been removed so early for any reason other than an injury. To be fair, he was far from the only culprit in a dismal first-half performance on a rainy night in Southern California.
"I just felt we needed a little bit more," Arena said. "We needed to make a change in the midfield. It was purely a coach's decision. I couldn't change 11 players. That's what I told the team at halftime. If I had 11 substitutions, I would have considered that. I can't give you all the answers right now, that's for sure. It wasn't good."
Beckham and Arena have forged a close bond the past few seasons and the club's fortunes improved from the moment the former USA national team coach was signed in August 2008.
When Beckham announced his decision to return to the Galaxy in January, he cited Arena as one of the major reasons he was coming back. He vowed to help the club win more silverware.
But Beckham is a proud man, and the events of Saturday night surely were a significant blow to his ego. He may also feel he was unfairly targeted and that the substitution made him out to be the scapegoat for a team performance that was abjectly poor in every aspect.
At the very least, it would be no surprise if Beckham and Arena talk to clear the air this week as the team prepares for its visit to Sporting Kansas City, the only team in the league holding a perfect record.
[ Related: Revolution beat short-handed Galaxy ]
However, the main reason behind the Galaxy's surprising decline is its poor defending, with the midfield and backline equally culpable. Losing center-back Omar Gonzalez to a long-term ACL injury was a serious blow, yet it has still been remarkable to see the level of chaos in a previously highly organized lineup.
"We did the exact same as what we have been doing in the last few games, conceding sloppy goals," Keane said. "It is stuff you do when you are a kid. We didn't do it properly, so I guess we have only got ourselves to blame.
"It will be a long week for the boys. It is up to everyone to pick their heads up and be men and get on with it. It wasn't good enough from any of us."
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- Bruce Arena