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Hey, Ben, How Sad Are You That David Beckham Isn't Playing Today?


Actually, I'm a little sad.

I know that the absense of David Beckham from the Los Angeles Galaxy lineup is a good thing for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Even at 36 years old, Beckham is one of Major League Soccer's better central midfielders. He's a dynamo on set pieces, of course, everybody knows that, but he also has a very nice playmaking touch that allows him to knock defense-splitting balls with regularity; something that could have gone very badly indeed for the projected Whitecaps central defense of Alain Rochat and Michael Boxall.

There are those who would say that we should be upset Beckham isn't playing because he sells tickets and raises fan interest. Well, the tickets are already sold: the Whitecaps are expecting to be close to a sellout. Sure, if you haven't already got a ticket you can probably walk down Hastings ten minutes before kickoff and buy a seat from a desperate scalper for pocket change, but the organization has its money. I don't believe that the old Eurosnobs and screaming teenage girls who bought up those extra seats to see the immaculately-coiffed Beckham in action were likely to hit future games for the likes of Peter Vagenas anyway.

That doesn't mean I don't have a sense of history, though.

I'd have liked to see an international soccer icon (for, like him or not, Beckham is most certainly that). I don't believe for a second his yellow card for time-wasting was a deliberate attempt to get out of this game: after all, Vancouver is closer to Los Angeles than quite a few MLS cities Beckham has played in without complaint. Yet, as has been so often pointed out, with Thierry Henry and now Beckham missing out on Empire Field Whitecaps fans are losing a lot of chances to see those epochal legends who made their name elsewhere and have come to North America; trying to wring a few more big paydays out of their careers, of course, but also because they're still sublimely good players at this level.

It's a letdown. Part of the joy of soccer is its international scale: there are great players in Europe, Asia, and South America with whom neither the Whitecaps nor Canada will ever cross swords in anger, and yet who are still an important part of the world they play in. Friendlies can never really capture that, but a chance to see Beckham or Henry play a competitive game in Vancouver is a little glimpse of the rest of the world, all packaged up and delivered to our doorstep.

It's not for us, unfortunately. There will be other players, and a victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy would be a titanic moment even with Beckham absent. Still, with the playoffs out of reach it would have been nice to get a little spectacle.