SPORTS

L.A.'s Beckham sees huge crowd for Impact game as good sign for MLS

05/11/2012 06:31 EDT | Updated 07/11/2012 05:12 EDT
MONTREAL - The only time goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts played against David Beckham, his Reggae Boys got rocked 6-0 by England in a pre-World-Cup friendly in 2006.

The veteran 'keeper for the Montreal Impact doesn't want that to happen again when he faces Beckham and the defending Major League Soccer champion Los Angeles Galaxy before a huge crowd at Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

Especially since they were teammates the last two years in L.A. before Ricketts joined the expansion Impact this season.

Beckham's first visit and Montreal's strong play of late sparked a rush of ticket sales that topped 59,000 on Friday. A crowd of more than 60,000 is expected for the match.

"He's a good guy," Ricketts said of Beckham, the England international who is one of the sport's best-known stars. "At first I thought he would be stuck up, being David Beckham, but he's a good person and he's easy to get along with."

Their first meeting was not so pleasant, although Ricketts had to laugh in recalling it.

There were 70,373 fans at Old Trafford in Manchester that day to see England demolish Jamaica on a Peter Crouch hat-trick, and with Beckham whizzing balls in on crosses and set pieces through 90 one-sided minutes.

"It wasn't pretty," said Ricketts. "Hopefully I'll have a better result and we'll have three points and everyone will go home happy and the Impact will feel good about moving along as a team."

Beckham was also in good spirits as he, forward Landon Donovan and coach Bruce Arena met the media after the Galaxy's 90-minute workout on the stadium's oft-criticized artificial turf.

He didn't even seem all that shocked when a woman who hosts a local television lifestyles show asked him to sign some Beckham underwear.

"We were excited when Montreal came into the league," said Beckham. "It has some great owners, great guys, and now with Jesse Marsch being manager, it's great to see a player who has had a great career coming into management and being given a chance.

"I definitely think the game has grown, the league has grown. Sixty thousand fans turning out, that shows how it's grown. It's exciting to be in the league right now."

There are obviously no hard feelings, as when Marsch was a peppery midfielder for L.A.'s other team, Chivas USA, he had some run-ins on the field with Beckham, including one in which he gave the Galaxy star a nasty kick.

The Galaxy (3-5-1), who are seventh in the Western Conference, have struggled this season, including losses of 2-0 in Seattle and 1-0 at home to New York in their last two league games.

Montreal (3-5-2) are unbeaten at home this season (2-0-1) and upset first-place Sporting in Kansas City in their last league outing, although they dropped a 2-0 result in Toronto in Amway Canadian Championship play on Wednesday night.

The Impact are expected to have a new back line featuring mainly taller players in a bid to counter a Galaxy attack spearheaded by Beckham's remarkable ability to deliver on-target passes, free kicks and corners.

Nelson Rivas, recently returned from injury, will join Matteo Ferrari in the central defence, with lanky Hassoun Camara moving to left back. Rookie Callum Mallace, selected in the second round of the SuperDraft, may see his first MLS action at right back facing one of the sport's most famous players.

"That would be something to tell the grandkids," said Mallace. "And obviously, with me being Scottish and him being English there will be a little something more in there."

Beckham got laughs when asked if he was surprised to see so much support for a soccer team in a hockey town like Montreal.

"I think we're the hockey town at the moment," he said. "Sorry, I don't want to offend anyone. It's exciting in L.A. at the moment with the Kings. They're playing so well and doing so well, but I know Montreal's a big hockey town as well."

Beckham admitted he once looked at being part of the Impact's ownership. Before the Saputo family landed the franchise, there was talk of Beckham being part of a partnership either in Montreal or in a prom posed new team in New York.

"There was truth to it," he said. "I had that option in my contract, so it's something I've thought about, but I'm still playing, so it's not right for me to own a team when I'm still playing.

"But I met the guys. They're great guys and really good businesspeople."

There was some concern that Beckham wouldn't play in Montreal because he dislikes artificial turf, and the rug at Olympic Stadium in particular has been panned by visiting teams as rough to play on.

Without confirming it, Arena strongly suggested both Beckham and Donovan will play.

Donovan dismissed concerns about the turf.

"To be honest, we've heard so much from other players about how bad it was that our expectations were zero, so I actually thought it was all right," the U.S. international said. "I've never heard a single player in my career say they like playing on turf, so maybe if the owners will listen up a little that would help."

The Impact will move into their real home stadium with a grass pitch on June 16 once it is expanded to 20,000 seats.

Beckham had no worries about playing in Canada despite the hostile welcome he got in Toronto in March for a CONCACAF Champions League game, when he was booed by the Rogers Centre crowd and had a beer can thrown at him while taking a corner kick.

"It was a great atmosphere to play in, minus the beer cans," he said. "Ninety per cent of the people were there to see the game and have fun.

"It was a good game. So we hope the atmosphere will be like that. It's important to enjoy playing in games like this."

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