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Beckham kick starts it

Times Staff Writer

With one swing of his famous right foot -- as opposed to his recently more infamous left ankle -- David Beckham on Wednesday night erased a month of doubts about the value of his multimillion-dollar move from Real Madrid to the Galaxy.

The shot came little more than 26 minutes into the Galaxy’s SuperLiga semifinal against D.C. United at the Home Depot Center, when Beckham, who was making his first start for the team, sent one of his trademark free kicks curling into the back of the United net.

In an encore, Beckham later provided a perfect through pass for Landon Donovan to run onto and score as the Galaxy defeated the four-time Major League Soccer champion, 2-0, to sweep into the SuperLiga final.

The Galaxy will play Mexican champion Pachuca in the Aug. 29 title game, also in Carson, with a $1-million first prize on the line.

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Beckham, who has been nursing an injured left ankle for most of June, all of July and half of August, played for 62 minutes 18 seconds, finally coming off to rapturous applause from the announced crowd of 17,223.

Wednesday night’s effort, not only by Beckham but by the entire Galaxy team, was a turnaround that seemed far-fetched, but for the England midfielder it was all in a day’s work.

“I think it was a great team performance tonight,” he said. “We showed a lot of character, as a team and as individuals.

“I didn’t expect to last an hour . . . but I was happy to be out there for 60 minutes.”

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The Galaxy had lost, 1-0, to D.C. United in an MLS match in Washington last Thursday, when Beckham had played barely 21 minutes.

This time, wearing the captain’s armband that once belonged to Donovan, Beckham came out determined to silence his critics.

He was involved in the play from the start, even earning a yellow card in the 18th minute for a hard and late tackle on D.C. United stalwart Jaime Moreno.

Ben Olsen, United’s U.S. international midfielder, returned the favor a few minutes later, upending Beckham, who got up smiling.

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Then came the free kick.

Referee Alex Prus spotted defender Devon McTavish inadvertently handling the ball just outside the United penalty area and awarded the kick.

Beckham stepped up, measured the angles, watched the defensive wall form, saw where goalkeeper Troy Perkins had positioned himself, and then put the ball where no one, much less Perkins, could reach it.

It curved in such a trajectory that it struck not the back of the net but rather the inside left side netting.

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“Unbelievable,” said Donovan.

Perkins was less enthusiastic.

“I was cheating” to one side, he said. “I was in a bad spot and he caught me. . . .

“You get a player who can hit a ball to either side and you have to pick a side to make him beat you.”

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Beckham did just that, and afterward the 32-year-old was mobbed by Galaxy teammates. Goalkeeper Joe Cannon, who made his usual quota of first-class saves, sprinted half the length of the field to take part in the celebration.

Said Beckham: “It was an important goal for myself.”

Tom Soehn, D.C. United’s coach, admitted that Beckham had made the difference.

“I thought he came to play today,” he said. “The free kick . . . was a great strike. He’s definitely going to be a big influence in our league.”

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It was Beckham who supplied the pass that gave Donovan his SuperLiga-leading fourth goal of the tournament in the 47th minute when he steered the ball just wide of United’s Josh Gros and into Donovan’s path.

Beckham said he was “very honored” that Donovan had agreed to yield the captaincy to him, something that occurred Tuesday during a meeting between the two players.

Times staff writer Jaime Cardenas contributed to this report.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com


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