Desert Diamond Cup soccer
Beckham talks Tucson, team preparation
Plus: Who is expected to play in upcoming matches?
LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham refused to comment on the wisdom of Major League Soccer’s move to consolidate preseason training in two locations around the country.
“It’s the commissioner’s decision,” he said in comments to the press Tuesday.
While not wanting to delve into league policy, he did have some nice things to say about his experience in Tucson so far.
“It’s good to be in one place just because you’re settled. You’re not traveling from here to there. You’re just in one place, concentrating, resting and working hard, as well.”
“I think it’s been great. To come to a place like Arizona, like Tucson — to be treated the way we’ve been treated, to play on the pitches we’ve been playing on — it helps in preparation. We’ve been looked after unbelievably well,” he said when asked about the organization that has put on the event, local club FC Tucson.
“There’s an excitement in the town, and that’s good to see. It’s good to have that as a club and for the game as well ... it’s been nice.”
The real reason they are here
Of course, Beckham and company are here to tune-up in preparation for the Major League Soccer season. Does he feel fit enough to play a full 90 in an MLS match yet?
“I’m almost there. I think most of the players are,” he said.
The team earned the Supporters’ Shield last year after ending the season with the best record in the league and defeated the Houston Dynamo to win the MLS Cup. The pressure will be on to win again.
“We need to perform like we did last year, if not better,” he replied. “When you’re champions, the other teams will play against you harder.”
“We were champions, but that’s in the past now. We need to do it again this season,” he said.
Los Angeles needs the preparation because their games start a bit earlier as they are in the knock-out stages of the CONCACAF Champions League, which starts on March 7 with a game against Toronto FC. This final stage of the tournament includes teams from the United States, Canada, Mexico and El Salvador. It is similar in shape to the UEFA Champions league that Beckham has played in with Real Madrid, Manchester United and AC Milan.
“It’s a special competition,” he said talking about the European version of the tournament. “And this is the same. It’s great that we’ve gone so far before, but we want to go all the way. It creates a lot of interest in the U.S. and around the world.”
Los Angeles had won the CONCACAF Champions Cup, an earlier version of the tournament in 2000. The subsequent Club World Cup was canceled, but a win in the final of this year’s tournament would earn the Galaxy a bid in the next CWC.
Who is in? Who is out?
Fans may have been disappointed to not see the full Red Bulls squad in games so far. That was mainly because they had a date in Glendale to play against Pumas de UNAM. Starters were rested Wednesday, then too tired to play in Saturday’s contest.
Those hoping to see the two highest-profile players on the team are in luck, but they’ll probably have to buy two tickets. French star Thierry Henry is likely to play Wednesday night in their match against Los Angeles. Rafael Márquez is with the Mexican national team in Florida for a match against Colombia, but will be returning for the team’s final game Saturday.
As for other players, according to a tweet from New England Revolution digital staffer Jeff Lemieux, players that played the full match against New York will not be playing against Real Salt Lake. That would mean goalkeeper Matt Reis, defender Darrius Barnes, midfielders Stephen McCarthy, Benny Feilhaber, Shalrie Joseph and Kelyn Rowe.
And, for those soccer geeks that are curious, red cards do not carry over in the Desert Diamond Cup. Yordany Alvarez and Ned Grabavoy, the two Real Salt Lake players who were ejected from Saturday’s game against Los Angeles, will be available to play.
Which brings us to Landon Donovan: Bruce Arena refused to comment Monday on whether he will be well enough to play in either match this week. He was spotted at practice, and let out a few coughs as he exited the field.