Record crowd flocks to see Beckham


Mon, Aug 20, 2007 - Page 20

David Beckham brought back memories of Pele and Franz Beckenbauer, reviving soccer in the New York area for a night.

Playing before a record crowd of 66,237, Beckham made his first Major League Soccer start and set up a pair of goals in the first eight minutes. But the New York Red Bulls rallied for a 5-4 win over the Galaxy when Juan Pablo Angel scored his second goal of the game in the 88th minute.

Giants Stadium is nearly empty for most Red Bulls games -- the team's average of 11,573 for its first 10 home matches was next to last in the league. The crowd that came out for Beckham was the largest in franchise history and the biggest there for a US league game since the Cosmos drew 70,312 against Fort Lauderdale in 1980.

"It makes you feel great. It makes you feel honored," Beckham said. "And hopefully, it continues, because this is what this league needs, this is what this sport needs in America."

Fans showed support for the home team, many booing Beckham when he took a free kick midway through the second half. But they cheered as he walked off the field after the match, with his injured left ankle not responding well to playing a match on artifical turf.

"My ankle took quite a bit of pounding, of course. It's a surface that I'm obviously not used to playing on," he said. "There was a couple of instances that I sort of went over on my ankle. But at the end of the day we have to play on this surface."

He created Los Angeles' first goal in the sixth minute with a corner kick on the left side that was headed in by Carlos Pavon at the far post. Two minutes later, Beckham took a 30m free kick on the right side and fed an unmarked Pavon, who beat goalkeeper Ronald Waterreus with a diving header. They were the first two MLS goals for Pavon, a Honduran forward who also signed with the Galaxy this year.

In the second half Beckham played a brilliant through ball in the 56th minute to Landon Donovan that nearly led to a goal.

"It was very different," Beckham said. "I haven't been involved in a game like that since I was 9 or 10 years old, where there were so many goals."

It was a rare night of attention for the Red Bulls.

"We've struggled in this marketplace," New York coach Bruce Arena said. "It's our job when people to show up to try and give them a reason to come back. So, hopefully, we converted a few people tonight."

Beckham will be busy in coming days. He is set to make his 97th international appearance for England in a friendly against Germany at Wembley on Wednesday, then jet eight time zones to play in an MLS Los Angeles derby the following night when the Galaxy play Chivas USA.