The LA Galaxy are better off without David Beckham
The above, for the marketing-obsessed owners of the club and a league leadership fully committed to Brand Beckham, is the uncomfortable truth.
Without the distractions Beckham brings, with Bruce Arena able to better organize his team to run through Landon Donovan, and without the pressure to get Beckham the ball or for him move out of position to pick it up, the Galaxy are balanced, disciplined, and difficult to beat.
Right now, they're the best team in Major League Soccer, having won five times, drawn once (0-0 against the Kansas City Wizards last weekend), and conceded just a single goal in six matches.
Edson Buddle, the only Galaxy player to score so far this season, doesn't seem to be wanting for service, much of it coming from the aforementioned Landon Donovan. It's difficult to imagine them playing much better.
With that in mind, we could then hardly fault Bruce Arena if he surreptitiously pumped his fist in celebration when Beckham let it be known that he's unlikely to return this season.
November is the most optimistic outlook, one that would have Becks back for end of the MLS Cup playoffs, if at all.
Even if Beckham hadn't taken that unfortunate step and crumpled to the pitch in Italy, ending his World Cup dreams and putting him out for months, the Galaxy would have played most of the season without him.
A possible place in South Africa after ending the Serie A season, plus a probable respite after England's departure from the tournament, meant a late July/early August return to MLS. By then, much of the Galaxy's story would have been written, and throwing Beckham into the mix would probably mean adding an unnecessary player whose contract and name dictated he play.
It's possible he could have played the savior, but at 34 - and with just one trick in his bag, how much could he possibly add?
Contrary to popular opinion, Beckham's time in America hasn't been a total waste. No, it has not been a rousing success on the field, but the Galaxy did come within penalty kicks of a championship last year.
Beckham has raised the profile of the league, both in the United States and abroad, an element of the "experiment" that is difficult to quantify. It's easy then to call the whole thing a complete disaster, point to Beckham's continued efforts to play elsewhere to raise his World Cup stock, and fault MLS and the Galaxy for getting ahead of themselves. But the reality is a shade of gray, not black or white.
The truth of the matter is that the Galaxy are good because they followed a tried and true MLS model; hire a coach that knows the league, get production out of the American players on the roster, and sign affordable foreign talent that will fit into the system.
Arena has built a club from back to front, and turned the worst defence in the league in 2007 into the best in 2008. That stinginess has continued, and as long as Jamaican goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts stays healthy, they should have little trouble repeating the feat.
There will be no questions for Bruce Arena come July about how he might insert a returning David Beckham into the team. There won't be concern that the balance he's built might be thrown off by a player whose value beyond free kicks and forty-yard diagonal balls is questionable. He won't need to change assignments to cover for Beckham's defensive deficiencies or inability to keep up with younger, fitter, opponents, and he won't be forced to deal with paparazzi and clueless media hounding his club.
Simply put, Bruce Arena's life became much easier the moment David Beckham ruptured his Achilles tendon.
At least for a little while. Landon Donovan is still heading off to South Africa in June, and with US National Team camp opening in mid-May, the Galaxy will be forced to withstand a stretch without the league's best player.
If the red hot Edson Buddle is somehow a shock inclusion in the American team (unlikely, but possible), it will be doubly hard to keep their form. But LA's real strength lays in the back; if there's anything that could keep them near the top of the league through July, it will be Ricketts, second year center back Omar Gonzalez, and a defence that keep the Galaxy in every match.
At least MLS is breaking this World Cup year, even if only for the group stages, something that's never been done before.
If you asked Bruce Arena today about David Beckham's injury, he'd certainly say all the right things. He'd lament the loss of the Galaxy's highest paid player, talking about the unique things that the Englishman can do and how the team would love to have him back.
HeÃ¢ÂÂd speak about the midfielder's commitment to the club, the unfortunate end to Beckham's last shot at making a World Cup team, and his standing in the team and league.
Would he be lying? Perhaps, but one could hardly blame him.
The Galaxy are better off without David Beckham, and Bruce Arena certainly knows it.