CARSON, Calif. -- David Beckham is probably thinking the same thing you are as you watch him play this postseason.
Will he be back next season? Are these his final games in Los Angeles? Will he gather wife Victoria and their four children next month, having completed his five-year commitment to the Los Angeles Galaxy and Major League Soccer, and fly back to Europe for good?
“To be honest, I haven’t even thought about what’s after this,” Beckham said Thursday night as he stood in front of his locker after the Galaxy defeated the New York Red Bulls, 2-1, to advance to the Western Conference championship. “Right now I’m concentrating on the moment and us progressing and getting a championship. My time here has been great. I’ve had a lot of highs playing for this organization, playing with this team and this year has definitely been the most enjoyable.”
Beckham is not being coy when he says he honestly does not know what he will do. His next move will not simply be for a paycheck; it will likely influence where he spends his foreseeable future as his children grow up to be adults. His sons, who are 12, 9 and 6 years old, and his infant daughter, have only known Los Angeles as home. A move back to England would likely mean he has left the States for good while a new deal would further root him and his family to Southern California.
People move to L.A. for “just a couple of years” all the time. The next thing you know, 20 or 30 years later they’re still here living or chasing the dream. This city is like a bad reality show you love to hate. You can knock it publicly all you want, but when it comes time to program your DVR in private, you know you can’t quit it.
Beckham is at a crossroads in his life right now. He is still young enough to chase his dream, but what exactly is that dream?
Is it to win trophies in the States or is it to play for a European power again and represent his country on the international stage?
No one could blame Beckham if he were leaning toward the latter. There’s enough evidence to suggest he has often been leaning that way even during his five years in Los Angeles when he trained with Arsenal and Tottenham and was loaned to Milan twice; trying to stay there as long as he could to secure a roster spot for the English National team.
There comes a point in everyone’s life, however, where your dreams and ambitions must line up with reality and responsibility.
There’s no need for Beckham to continue playing abroad to chase one last run with the national team or one last championship in Europe. He has done it all and is now two wins away from winning his first MLS Cup with the Galaxy and firmly planting a new legacy here in Los Angeles.
On Thursday night, Beckham showed he’s still got it and doesn’t need to play for Tottenham or Paris Saint-Germain to prove it. Beckham contributed to both of the Galaxy’s goals in a gutsy effort after being knocked out early when he was hit in the back, though he returned soon after.
The first goal came on a perfectly placed corner kick from Beckham to Mike Magee, who headed it past New York goalkeeper Frank Rost in the 42nd minute. The second goal came on a penalty kick by Landon Donovan after Roy Miller fouled Beckham in the penalty area in the 75th minute.
“He’s a player with unbelievable desire to win and compete,” said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. “When we got down a goal, David helped pick up the team. His energy in the second half in earning that penalty kick it was all David. He was an inspiration to our team tonight.”
With 11 minutes left in the game, Arena substituted Michael Stephens for Beckham, who was given a standing ovation by the crowd of 20,000 at the Home Depot Center. As he walked off the field, he looked up and clapped for the fans before being hugged by the players and coaches on the bench. It wouldn’t be Beckham’s last game in Los Angeles. He will be back Sunday night for the Western Conference championship game in what could prove to be his last or penultimate game in Los Angeles.
“People have talked about my future for about 10 years,” he said after the game. “When I first moved to Madrid, in the first year I was going to Chelsea five or six times, so I’ve had that throughout my career. When you get into this stage of the season, every game means something so it doesn’t mean anymore to me if it was my first year at the Galaxy.”
Before he left the stadium, a French reporter asked Beckham if he had a message for his fans in Paris who are waiting for him to play there next season and he simply smiled.
“Right now I’m a Galaxy player,” he said. “That’s all I can say. I’m enjoying myself.”
Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.