The Beckham waiting game


Sunday, Aug. 5 at Toronto FC – Too early for Beckham's sore ankle. He'll probably watch from the stands. Chances of starting: 1 percent. Chances of coming off the bench: 10 percent.

Thursday, Aug. 9 at D.C. United – The Galaxy hope to get him right for this game, but a lack of match fitness is likely to prevent him from starting. Chances of starting: 20 percent. Chances of coming off the bench: 60 percent.

Sunday, Aug. 12 at New England Revolution – Depends on how comfortable Beckham is about playing on FieldTurf and how he recovers from the D.C. United match. Chances of starting: 20 percent. Chances of coming off the bench: 60 percent.

Wednesday, Aug. 15 vs. D.C. United – The Galaxy will be desperate for Beckham to play at home in this SuperLiga semifinal. Chances of starting: 70 percent. Chances of coming off the bench: 25 percent.

Saturday, Aug. 18 at New York Red Bulls – With an England friendly just a few days away, much will depend on how he holds up following L.A.'s SuperLiga clash. Chances of starting: 60 percent. Chances of coming off the bench: 35 percent.

– Martin Rogers

CARSON, Calif. – The wait goes on … for David Beckham, coach Frank Yallop, the Los Angeles Galaxy and an increasingly impatient American soccer public.

Yallop revealed Thursday that Beckham, who's still nursing a sprained left ankle, would travel with the team to Toronto but is unlikely to play in Sunday's MLS game against Toronto FC at BMO Field.

Nearly three weeks since his glitzy unveiling at the Home Depot Center in a friendly against Chelsea, the England midfielder has still seen only 16 minutes of action for his new club and is leaving a trail of disappointed supporters in his wake.

"The chances are probably slim," Yallop said of Beckham playing Sunday. "My gut feeling is that he probably won't be involved."

The policy adopted by the Galaxy is sound. They want Beckham to be 100-percent fit before he makes his MLS debut. So playing him before his ankle is completely healed would not only reduce his effectiveness but it'd also dramatically increase the possibility of a setback.

However, the safety-first option, while understandable, is now starting to cause some headaches.

With the Galaxy's upcoming schedule having become further congested due to their qualification for the SuperLiga semifinals, the matter of when and where to slot Beckham in keeps getting tougher. He has still not completed a full training session with his new teammates and will have little chance to work on new moves and plays with the steady diet of games and air travel over the next fortnight.

"When you look at the schedule, it is an incredible number of games and a lot of flights," Yallop said. "Every team has the odd tough couple of weeks on their schedule but we have got 10 weeks of it.

"It is going to be hard for David. You would think it takes a couple of games at least to get to that level he is normally at. His physical fitness will not be an issue. It is just a case of getting that game sharpness. As for when he is ready for a full game, it is hard to say.

"The progress is slow – I think we are all surprised he is not getting better quickly, but I guess with this injury he was not supposed to do that. We just want to get to a point where he can get going."

Also complicating matters is the FieldTurf on which the Galaxy play three of their next five games. Artificial surfaces have improved dramatically in recent years, but even its most ardent supporters would admit that it increases strain on key joints. Toronto, New England and New York all play on synthetics.

Beckham has suffered no structural damage to his left ankle, yet he is troubled by scar tissue and inflammation. Playing on a surface other than grass could increase his discomfort, and since an injection he received before his final Real Madrid game is believed to have exacerbated the problem, painkillers can be safely ruled out.

After Toronto, the Galaxy head to Washington D.C., where Beckham could take part in his first league game next Thursday. Landon Donovan, who scored one goal and set up three more in Tuesday's incredible 6-5 victory at FC Dallas, believes the long road trip will be a pleasant escape from the hype surrounding Beckham and the team in California.

"We can get away from all this for a bit. Get away together and bond as a team, travelling together, eating together, all that kind of stuff," Donovan said. "We have not had much of a chance to bond.

"It will be good for David. He needs to get away a bit because there has been a lot going on. It will be nice for him to be with us in a more intimate setting and an easier setting.

"But the most important thing for us is to get him on the field now. We need to work out little things about him and him about us – then it will get easier and better."