CARSON, Calif. – When one of the most mild-mannered men in soccer drops four F-bombs in a press conference you know something is seriously wrong.
Los Angeles Galaxy coach Frank Yallop could contain his frustration no longer Wednesday night as the latest in a string of misfortunes left him with the pain of a heartbreaking SuperLiga final defeat to Pachuca and, perhaps more seriously, a huge cloud hanging over David Beckham's season.
After missed penalty shootout kicks from two of his most experienced players, Landon Donovan and Abel Xavier, erased the Galaxy's victory hopes – and with it any realistic chance of silverware this season – two months of pent-up anger spilled out from the usually unflappable Yallop.
"The guys are (expletive) knackered, to be honest," Yallop said. "That's the truth, but we kept going. They're (expletive)."
"All the crap that we've (expletive) been through, I'm telling you, it's been difficult to (expletive) deal with. Sorry to swear, but it's been hard. It makes me proud of them."
Less than seven short weeks ago, it seemed that the only way for the Galaxy to go was up. Beckham's glitzy unveiling at the Home Depot Center appeared certain to usher in a new dawn of success and excitement in American soccer.
Instead, events since that day – Friday the 13th (not that anyone is superstitious) – have evolved into a nightmarish soap opera that in the most part Yallop, Beckham and the Galaxy have been powerless to prevent.
Beckham's right knee injury resulting from a collision with Pachuca's Fernando Salazar in the 30th minute was another example of the freakish bad luck that has repeatedly stalled his attempts to inject some momentum into his Major League Soccer career.
The England midfielder is a winner and a fighter and the way he immediately peeled off his runners-up medal at the presentation ceremony was an indication of his hatred of defeat. However, the most sensible option now would be to learn from the mistake of trying to rush back early from his ankle trouble and make sure this knee sprain is adequately rested and recovered from.
The inevitable ignorant comments from those not well-versed in the intricacies of soccer will undoubtedly be trotted out – accusations that Beckham is soft, accompanied by mentions of the size of his contract. He needs to block those voices out, dispel any thoughts that he is letting people down and get his body back in shape.
Real Salt Lake's victory against Kansas City on Wednesday night condemned the Galaxy to the bottom of the Western Conference standings. While a playoff place is still mathematically possible, it would require a revival of truly monumental proportions.
For that slim possibility, it is not worth Beckham risking long-term damage by coming back too soon. He wants to please everybody, but it seems as if he will do what's best for him.
"I am devastated to be taken out of the game," Beckham said. "I was looking forward to it, my ankle was better, now it has gone from one thing to another. Maybe it is a sign for me to say I need the rest and get it right and don't come back until it is right.
"I would have thought out for Real Salt Lake on Saturday. It doesn't feel good – a ligament strain is four to six weeks so we will have to wait and see. If the scan comes back and it is not as bad, then maybe I have got a chance to play but we will have to wait and see."
It is hard to see how things could have gone any worse for the Galaxy. They have lost five games in a row in MLS play, been rocked by a spate of injuries and had to operate under the intense glare of spotlight most of the squad were not used to and unprepared for.
A SuperLiga title would have helped erase some of the bitter memories of the past few weeks, but despite a courageous second-half performance capped by Chris Klein's game-tying goal off a overhead kick with a minute of normal time left, Yallop's men could not complete the comeback.
Klein's equalizer prompted Beckham to hobble back to the sidelines to encourage his colleagues during the extra time of the 1-1 deadlock. He ended up seeing the Galaxy become the latest victim of soccer's most exciting, but also its most cruel, method of breaking a tie.
Donovan had the chance to seal victory with his side's fifth shootout kick, but his effort was saved by Pachuca goalkeeper Miguel Calero. Xavier's wild slice handed the Mexican club the trophy minutes later.
Cue wild celebrations from Pachuca, gloomy faces among the Galaxy players, an unexpected expletive-filled rant from Yallop and a nervous wait for the results of Beckham's knee scan.
Just another night in the mad world of the Los Angeles Galaxy.
- Frank Yallop