With BC Place transformed from its usual layout for football to a theatre of soccer this week, a select number of fans got the chance to see David Beckham and Los Angeles Galaxy train under the dome on Tuesday afternoon.
Following a well-attended morning press conference at the Pan Pacific Hotel, the Galaxy prepared for Wednesday night’s highly-anticipated international friendly with hosts Vancouver Whitecaps by training in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 2,000 invited spectators at an open practice session. As the Galaxy players entered the turf, many of the cheers were reserved for the former England captain.
Among those that earned a ticket for Tuesday’s event were Whitecaps season ticket holders. Vancouver’s Jon Waller was one such season ticket holder to earn the privilege of seeing Beckham and the Galaxy train first-hand. He hopes that Wednesday’s game will be an entertaining contest. “It should be interesting,” Waller told whitecapsfc.com. “I haven’t seen the Whitecaps in such a big stadium before, and I certainly haven’t seen them play opposition of this calibre before, though I did see them play Sunderland a couple of years ago. I hope some of the young Whitecaps players get some playing time on Wednesday.”
With interim head coach Trevor James and Galaxy director of soccer Paul Bravo conducting the session, Los Angeles went through a brisk warm-up before getting in some ball work in close proximity to the attended crowd, with cries of ‘Beckham, Beckham’ heard periodically from the BC Place stands.
North Vancouver’s Doug McCartney admitted that the lure of the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star prompted him to bring his son Dillon to the open practice. “It’s interesting because, if it wasn’t for Beckham, then I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “I did this for my son because he wanted to see David Beckham and learn how to train, as you learn how to become a better soccer by practicing.”
McCartney sees Beckham having some influence on the friendly contest. “I definitely hope it’s competitive, that’s for sure,” he added. “However, I can see Mr. Beckham settling it with two of his patented free kicks. I could see it being 3-1 to Los Angeles, but it should be an interesting match though.”
The athleticism of the Galaxy squad is sure to provide a stern test for the Whitecaps, and with even the likes of Vancouver Canucks captain Markus Naslund and centre Byron Ritchie in attendance, Beckham and Los Angeles displayed some of the polished quality that they possess as a team during their training session.
Though the Major League Soccer club are regarded as playing at a higher level, Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan believes there is usually little difference between clubs in MLS and those in the United Soccer Leagues. “A lot of time, you get fringe MLS players that don’t want to deal with the uncertainty of their own situation, so they go and play in the USL instead,” said the USA international. “There are a lot of players throughout USL-1 that can play in MLS, so we know that Wednesday’s game will be a tough one.”
For the on-looking crowd, the open practice ended in thrilling fashion, as members of the Galaxy made their way to the stands to sign autographs. The biggest excitement surrounded Beckham’s arrival, as he signed everything from soccer jerseys to cards and posters. Full credit should be given to the star midfielder, as he accepted every autograph request from the crowd before heading to the Galaxy locker room at the end of the session.