Beckham at last
Major League Soccer scored a major coup last year by acquiring the services of David Beckham, the world's most famous - if not best - soccer player. A celebrity in every sense of the word, Beckham (and his pop-star wife, Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham) provided the league with the kind of star power that can attract casual fans by the thousands.
Though Beckham suits up for the Los Angeles Galaxy, his magnetism is at work in every MLS city. Stadiums sell out nationwide when Becks is in town, as people who've never paid much attention to their local club, be they soccer newbies or MLS-hating soccer snobs, flock to see a superstar in action.
Columbus missed out on these benefits when Beckham skipped last season's Galaxy-Crew match with an injury. Most of the sellout crowd still showed up, but they probably left with a bad taste in their mouths. Not only did they not see their hero "bend it," they witnessed one of the more lifeless performances by the hometown Crew.
This year's engagement, Saturday night at Crew Stadium, promises to be better. Mr. Posh himself will be there, so the swooning lasses should come equipped with binoculars. But perhaps more significantly, given the caliber of this year's Columbus side, the people who come to see their tabloid hero might go home Crew fans.
Beckham and the Galaxy arrive to face a squad riding higher than any in Crew history. Columbus remains the only MLS team to have clinched a playoff spot, and holds a comfortable eight-point cushion over its closest challenger. The Crew hasn't lost in seven matches, including three without MVP candidate Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
These guys are simply playing out of their minds right now. They come from behind on a regular basis. They're defending as a unit, they're putting together some gorgeous combinations and they're getting goals from practically every guy on the roster. (Your day is coming, Danny O'Rourke!)
What's more, the Galaxy has scored more goals than any team in MLS, and they've conceded an even greater number. It's not a winning strategy - L.A. owns the league's worst record - but it sure is entertaining. That said, Saturday's battle looks to be a high-scoring, fan-friendly affair.
Even if the goals aren't as plentiful as expected, excitement should be high. It's a showdown between top MVP candidates Landon Donovan, the MLS goals leader, and Schelotto, the league's top assist man. It's a chance to see the infectious enthusiasm of Crew fan section Nordecke extrapolated across an entire stadium.
And yeah, David Beckham will be there.
L.A. Galaxy at Columbus Crew
Saturday, Oct. 4