Gullit makes the right call on Beckham

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

HONOLULU – In the world of David Beckham, things are right once again.

Right as in the right-hand side of midfield.

It's the position to get the best out of the England midfielder. It's also the right decision by Los Angeles Galaxy head coach Ruud Gullit.

Beckham was primarily used in central midfield during his injury-riddled first campaign in Major League Soccer, but Gullit seems to have made up his mind to play Beckham on the right a game into the preseason.

In Wednesday night's 1-0 defeat to Gamba Osaka in the Pan-Pacific Championship, Beckham played the full 90 minutes in the position that established him as a star in his days with Manchester United.

"I can probably be help to the team in both positions because I can play balls around," Beckham said. "But on the right I can put crosses in, and I do enjoy playing on the right."

It is easy to see why former Galaxy coach Frank Yallop wanted to use Beckham in the middle last season. Beckham had just helped Real Madrid win the Spanish La Liga title in that role with his tenacious tackling and a workaholic approach.

However, there are key differences in his situation that made a central role far more difficult to manage in MLS last year.

In Spain, Beckham was just one of many talented players, a star-studded group that included the incredibly gifted Zinedine Zidane playing alongside him. Beckham's most valuable contribution to Real Madrid was his competitive nature and tireless running, tackling and distributing. He provided a controlling presence in midfield.

But in MLS, where Beckham will normally be one of the most accomplished players on the field, he becomes more of a target. Opposing coaches, like Chivas USA's Preki, will try to shut him down by clogging up the midfield. When the two L.A. teams met last season, Jesse Marsch, Chivas' midfield enforcer, allowed Beckham no time or space.

Yet on the right side of midfield, Beckham has a greater sense of freedom and more license to create chances.

Playing him there restricts the opposition's options. No one is going to play two left backs to try to close Beckham down, so he will have plenty of scope to deliver his famous pinpoint crosses toward the Galaxy's strikers.

Beckham's precise role may hinge upon who locks down the starting right-back slot. When Chris Klein plays, he will overlap forward ahead of Beckham on occasions, leaving the Englishman to cover on defense.

No. 4 overall pick Sean Franklin, however, is a more traditional defensive right back and is more likely to hold his position.

"In the middle, you can clog it up and get around him and make it difficult," said teammate Landon Donovan of Beckham. "When he has time when he is wide, if you are going to drop people out of there, it will create a lot of space for us in the middle. Hopefully, that is how it works out."

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