FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Among the barbs David Beckham's critics like to hurl in his direction are complaints that he is more concerned with his image off the field than his productivity on it.
Few who witnessed the 32-year-old's performances for Real Madrid at the end of last season, or his efforts in helping England to the 2002 World Cup, would adhere to those views. However, the fact remains that Beckham is one of the most visible sportsmen on the planet.
Yet the story so far on Beckham's American adventure and his current hobbled status is best portrayed by sounds, not images.
First of all, there were the boos at Gillette Stadium on Sunday when it became clear the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder would not take the field in his side's 1-0 defeat to the New England Revolution. Not the entire sellout crowd of 35,402 voiced its displeasure – Beckham was hardly hounded out of town when they did boo – but the discontent was reflective of an increasing level of impatience regarding his injured left ankle.
Then there were all the right noises being made by the Galaxy and their coach Frank Yallop.
Yallop has been thrust into the middle of the media circus surrounding Beckham without, so far, the positive payoff of an accomplished addition to his regular lineup. He has little choice but to toe the company line when it comes to his often-sidelined superstar.
That line, for now, is that Beckham will be in contention Wednesday night for L.A.'s SuperLiga semifinal against D.C. United at the Home Depot Center.
"I think we are missing a good player and we are getting into vital games," Yallop said. "We are excited to have him with us and we just want to get him on the field.
"We are hoping (that) having a day off will make his ankle better for Wednesday. He feels better walking around on it, but it is sore."
Not as sore perhaps as the annoyed supporters who felt short-changed here. Yet it is not the fault of Beckham or the Galaxy that the Revolution decided to build its entire marketing strategy for the game around one man whose status was always going to be doubtful.
Among those who hope Beckham will be fit Wednesday are around 3,000 tennis fans who were handed complimentary tickets for the game after Maria Sharapova pulled out of her East West Bank Classic semifinal match Saturday at the Home Depot Center. (How ironic it would be if their consolation prize for suffering one no-show was to be given a free ticket for another.)
Perhaps the most telling comments to come out regarding Beckham in New England were uttered by soft-spoken, mild-mannered Galaxy striker Edson Buddle, who offered some conflicting opinions on the likelihood of Beckham playing a major role for his new team anytime soon.
"It is not looking too good," Buddle said. "I see him every day in the training room and it is going to take some time for him to recover. He is good at hiding the pain and he is not one to show he is struggling. He will keep pushing himself."
Following Beckham's brief cameo in Washington on Thursday, his ankle suffered a setback, with soreness and swelling meaning his visit to Massachusetts was spent in a T-shirt and tracksuit pants instead of the Galaxy uniform.
He was powerless to stop an under-strength Galaxy team come under heavy pressure from New England in the first half and eventually go down to a Taylor Twellman goal in the 55th minute.
So there ended the Galaxy road trip that spanned three cities and two countries, produced one point and no goals, 20 minutes of playing time and four press conferences, but there's still little clarity on the most talked-about ankle in sports.