CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Major League Soccer’s past, present and future all converged at Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday night.
One of the highlights of the opening day of the league’s 24th season was the LA Galaxy unveiling a statue of David Beckham before their 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire. Beckham played six seasons with the Galaxy (2007-12) and led them to two championships.
Beckham saw one of the league’s top players make an impact in the Galaxy’s 2-1 victory. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored on a header in the 80th minute for the go-ahead goal. Chicago’s C.J. Sapong opened the scoring in the 49th minute and Daniel Steres tied it in the 68th on a header.
Beckham’s signing gave higher prominence to the league internationally as more top players arrived and fan interest increased.
“No doubt our league wouldn’t be what it is today if David didn’t make that decision,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said during a pregame ceremony. “At that time we were a fledgling business and trying to figure out if soccer would make it in America. His signing told the world that Major League Soccer could be the league of choice.”
Beckham admitted that he felt a little sheepish to be the franchise’s first statue in their legends plaza, which is located outside the stadium’s main entrance. Former coach Bruce Arena, Landon Donovan and Cobi Jones have had success both in MLS and with the U.S. national team. In sketches of the plaza, AEG, which owns the Galaxy, has plans for more statues.
Arena spoke during the ceremony and Jones was among the former players who were in the crowd.
“In this era of analytics I am sure David’s numbers would not stand out,” Arena said. “But when he scored goals, he scored decisive goals. He was simply a great leader and winner.”
Beckham was also placed in the team’s Ring of Honor at halftime. He will have a chance to his statue often during future seasons as he is one of the owners of Inter Miami FC, which will begin play in MLS next year.
“My commitment to his league and country was always a lot more than on the field,” Beckham said. “I wanted to grow the game and play a small part in growing this league and making it bigger. I think we have been successful but there still is a long way to go but I think we are very happy with the growth over the past 10 years.”