Beckham experiment a success-Edmonton Sun

By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI The superstar was in on a goal and there weren't any riots. On the big checklist of things that can go right or wrong in a soccer game, those are right at the top, so when it's a hooligan-free night and the guest of honour gets a sweet little first half assist, it's safe to call the David Beckham Experience a success. "I thought it was an excellent game," said L.A.Galaxy coach Ruud Gullit after some 37,104 fans showed up to watch their hero, nursing a sore foot from a previous injury, jog the patchy green and brown grass at Commonwealth Stadium yesterday. "I think the crowd enjoyed it." They did. Some were die-hard soccer worshippers who came to see Beckham the midfielder, not Beckham the fashion model/Spice Boy, and probably resented all the David-come-latelys in the crowd. And some were celebrity seekers who'd rather see Beckham in an underwear ad than a pair of spikes (unless it was just underwear and spikes) and proved their love and affection for one of the world's biggest superstars by actually sitting through a soccer game to see him. But, in the end, both appeared to go home happy. Beckham made a few nice plays, the Vancouver Whitecaps made a few nice plays, the soccer fans got their soccer and the Beckham fans got their Beckham. "It's been a great two days," said the Galaxy's franchise player, who played 75 minutes in a 2-1 exhibition loss to the Whitecaps. "I'm disappointed with the loss, but we've enjoyed it. I think 37,000 fans is great. It's a good thing for the game, a good thing for Galaxy. Every player enjoys playing in front of thousands of people and they were very enthusiastic." It's a gong show everywhere Beckham goes, and Edmonton was no different. But for him it's just another day at the office. "I think he handles it well," said Gullit. "He's a sportsman and he loves this game. You can see it every time (he plays). That's why people like him." He wasn't sensational or dominating last night, but did offer up a few subtle glimpses of what made him one of the world's elite. A corner kick here. A long, deadly accurate cross there - just enough to feed the masses' hunger. He lives by the same philosophy Wayne Gretzky did when he played: Never take a night off because somebody in the crowd paid a lot of money to see you live for the one and only time. Last night it was everybody, and Beckham knew it. "Me coming to L.A. and going to different places around America and around the world, there's always going to be expectations," he said. "People want you to perform, whether its an MLS game or whether you're playing for your country. People expect to see something. "You try to do it in every game. Sometimes it doesn't happen, but I work hard to make it happen every time. When it doesn't, I'm sorry about that. "Having a hand in the goal today helped, and I made a few nice passes. I rather enjoyed it." Nobody who showed up last night expected to see Beckham at his brilliant best - this was an exhibition game against a team in a lower league, not England in the World Cup. And he wasn't 100%, after getting spiked on the top of his foot a few games ago, nicking a blood vessel. So while at times it felt like we were watching Gretzky take an optional morning skate, or Tiger Woods in a pro-am, it was still Beckham. Clearly no ordinary superstar. "He still came here to perform," said Gullit. "He didn't want to come out. That shows the character. He doesn't want to come off the pitch. I said 'why don't you come off,' but he doesn't want to disappoint the crowd. He loves this game. And he still gave a good performance. I'm happy with it." No reason not to be. "They've seen their team win and also a few goals," said Beckham, politely ignoring the fact that most people were cheering for L.A. instead of Vancouver. "A good performance from both sides. I hope they go home happy."