CARSON, Calif. – There can be few sports teams in history that have generated as much publicity while being stuck in the lower reaches of their league as the Los Angeles Galaxy this season.
For the past few months, the Major League Soccer club's every move has been scrutinized, analyzed and sometimes criticized, thanks to its signing of one of the world's most high-profile athletes.
But with David Beckham being ruled out for six weeks with a knee injury and looking on from a private box with his three young sons, Saturday's visit by Real Salt Lake to the Home Depot Center should have provided the calm after the storm.
The Galaxy have wilted somewhat under the glare of a spotlight more intense than any previously faced by an MLS team. A home game against one of the league's weakest teams looked like the perfect way to ease the pressure, but someone forgot to read the script to the visitors from Utah.
Real Salt Lake pounced on the Galaxy's failure to kill off the game, gleefully accepted a smattering of good fortune and completed a 2-1 comeback victory with goals from Robbie Findley and Eddie Pope to ensure that L.A. retain the dubious distinction of holding the MLS' worst record. It was the sixth straight league defeat for the hosts and completed a desperately disappointing week that saw the SuperLiga trophy slip away, Beckham suffer a knee injury and coach Frank Yallop come under even more intense pressure.
Yallop is a realist, and despite the swirling maelstrom of frenzied activity he and his players have been dunked headfirst into resulting from a busy August schedule, he knows few head coaches survive such poor streaks of form. Having served his soccer schooling in the tough world of the English leagues, he appreciates the fact there is little room for sentiment or sympathy in most leading clubs.
Galaxy president Alexi Lalas, though, is not ready to pull the trigger just yet and feels there may be as much potential peril in creating further upheaval by immediately dismissing Yallop as there is in leaving him in charge. Crunch time is likely to come once a playoff berth is no longer a mathematical possibility and the last vestiges of hope have seeped away from an unforgettable and turbulent season.
"On one hand you are pleased with the effort and the chances; on the other hand, this is a results-orientated business and we are losing at home to one of the lower teams in the league," Lalas told Yahoo! Sports. "There is a level of pressure for all the coaches of the Galaxy. Frank knows full well what our expectations are and we still have full confidence in him and what he can give this team.
"If there is an opportunity for this organization to get into the playoffs, as there still is right now, then Frank is going to lead our charge into that. If there comes a point where the possibility does not exist, then we will deal with it at that time."
Lalas stressed that the unique situation the Galaxy have found themselves in this year demands that the critics, supporters – as well as he and club owners AEG – approach the matter of Yallop's job security with plenty of perspective.
It would be foolish to suggest that Yallop has "grown up" this season, but he will certainly have learned lessons from the experience. Also, several of his players will have gained maturity.
One thing that could save Yallop (and it has undoubtedly already bought him some time) is the fact that he retains the full backing of his locker room. Landon Donovan, who set up Alan Gordon for the Galaxy's only goal Saturday but missed a penalty that could have clinched the game, was defiant in his support of the coach.
"It would be ignorant of people to put any blame on Frank and I think they know that deep down," Donovan said. "Nobody is quitting for that guy, we will run through the wall for Frank. No matter what happens, we will bust our ass for him."
- Real Salt Lake