Daniel Girard Sports Reporter
David Beckham and star-studded L.A. Galaxy bring shine to Rogers Centre against Toronto FC
David Beckham’s soccer skills may have diminished but not his star power.
The English soccer superstar and his Los Angeles Galaxy teammates are training in Toronto on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday’s match (8 p.m., RSO) against Toronto FC, which will smash the attendance record for the locals.
A sellout crowd of about 45,000 is expected at Rogers Centre for the opening leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final. The return leg is set for Southern California next Wednesday night.
Beckham, who will turn 37 in May, was the headliner when TFC set its attendance record of 22,435 at BMO Field in a Major League Soccer regular season match last April. But fears of inclement weather forced Wednesday’s match indoors to the bigger stage — and artificial turf — of Rogers Centre.
Most observers believed that 0-0 draw last spring would be Beckham’s first — and last — meaningful game in Toronto. Other than a cameo in the 2008 MLS all-star game at BMO Field, the former England captain had either been on loan or injured each time the Galaxy came to town during his five-year, $32.5-million (US) contract, which ended following the 2011 season.
But rather than opt for a return to Europe as many had expected, Beckham signed another two-year deal in January. He cited his goal to raise the popularity of soccer in North America and the fact his family — former Spice Girl, Victoria, and their four kids — is enjoying life on the West Coast.
“I’m still passionate about playing in America and winning trophies with the Galaxy,” Beckham when he signed his new deal with the Galaxy.
With a lineup that also includes Ireland captain Robbie Keane and American captain Landon Donovan, the Galaxy is an elite side.
Beckham hoisted the MLS Cup with the Galaxy in November, his first trophy in North America and an apparent storybook finish to his career here.
That triumph came at the end of a brilliant season. After struggling through much of his first four years in MLS, Beckham had a career-high 15 assists, was selected to the league’s Best XI and won comeback player of the year.
Since the Galaxy’s last game of consequence, a 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Nov. 20 to capture their third championship, Beckham has been busy. He’s promoted his new underwear line, spoke at last month’s star-studded 70th birthday bash for Muhammad Ali in Las Vegas and picked up another award for his off-field style, this time for ideal dressed sports star.
Now, Beckham begins a new chapter of his career Wednesday in Toronto, trying to kick off 2012 with a victory over the upstart Reds and get into the final four of a competition for the top club teams in North and Central America and the Caribbean. The Galaxy won its precursor CONCACAF Champions Cup in 2000 but are trying to become the first MLS team to hoist the trophy since it became a much bigger tournament in 2008.
TFC has advanced to the quarter-final stage for the first time in three tries.
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