David Beckham has sometimes had trouble making himself understood since moving to the United States, and it has nothing to do with his English accent.
The Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder's repeated insistence that his game is more about setting up goals rather than scoring them has largely fallen upon the deaf ears of an American sporting public in love with raw statistics. Thankfully for Beckham, though, his right foot is still able to talk in a language that no sports fan can fail to grasp.
His two sensational strikes against Real Salt Lake on Saturday were as sweetly struck as they were timely and got the 33-year-old on the nightly highlight reels. The previous week, Beckham was outstanding as the Galaxy beat local rivals Chivas USA 5-2, but, harsh as it seems, his solid and consistent play won't be enough to elevate interest levels in North American soccer.
To achieve that stated ambition, he needs to do so with the spectacular – like his beautifully angled 25-yard curler and trademark free kick from even further out against RSL – and with Galaxy victories.
It is unrealistic to ask Beckham to suddenly transform himself into a goal-scorer extraordinaire at this advanced stage of his career. However, if he can chip in with a few more free kicks and long-distance efforts, such displays will add real momentum to his bid to raise awareness of MLS.
Beckham's return to 100 percent fitness has coincided with the confidence flowing back into his game. His free-kick taking ability always seems to correlate to the state of his overall game, so Saturday's two-goal performance bodes well for himself and the Galaxy.
"A lot of it is about belief," Beckham said. "Every player has to believe when they are taking a free kick and taking a shot that, if they get it in the right place, it will go in.
"I knew if I could get it over the wall that I had a chance of scoring. That is what I aim to do and I was pleased it worked."
Beckham's first goal in Utah was a perfect response to critics who claim Beckham is about little more than free kicks.
The England international looked up and spotted goalkeeper Nick Rimando a fraction off his line and expertly found the top corner. Few other players in MLS have either the foresight or the technique to execute such a play, and it proves Beckham has more to offer than his expertise in dead-ball situations.
By combining well with Landon Donovan and Alan Gordon, Beckham is an integral part of perhaps the most dangerous attacking trio in the league – one which is only likely to improve over time.
After a dismal start to the campaign in a 4-0 defeat to Colorado, things have steadily gotten better for L.A. The defense is still shaky and the team is prone to slow starts, but the Galaxy are scoring freely and gaining confidence. Moreover, head coach Ruud Gullit is beginning to understand what makes his players tick and the squad seems to be warming to the challenge of erasing the bitter memories of last season.
In Gullit, Beckham has a coach who is on the same wavelength, and his teammates are tuning in eagerly as well. With more goal-scoring efforts, a skeptical public is more likely to buy into MLS, not to mention a Galaxy success story that looked highly unlikely just a few weeks ago.