Union's players join Beckham buzz in Philadelphia

Posted: October 07, 2010

There should be a distinctive buzz at PPL Park for David Beckham's first appearance ever in the Philadelphia area when the Los Angeles Galaxy visit the Union in Thursday's 8 p.m. Major League Soccer match.

Beckham has been back only four games since tearing his left Achilles tendon March 14 while competing for AC Milan.

He scored his first goal on a 25-yard free-kick blast in Sunday's 2-1 win over Chivas USA.

Despite his abbreviated action, Beckham is the one everybody, including the Union players, has been talking about before this game.

"He still has great power and touch on his free kicks," said Sebastien Le Toux, the Union's leading scorer, with 13 goals. "He is a great player, and everybody looks forward to see him and play against him."

Union midfielder Andrew Jacobson played against Beckham last year as a member of D.C. United.

"He brings a media buzz, and everybody wants to know how you feel to play against Beckham," Jacobson said. "At the end of the day, he is a great player, but just one of 11."

Los Angeles has a major MLS MVP candidate in Landon Donovan, who leads the league with 14 assists. The Galaxy also have the league's leading scorer, Edson Buddle, who has 15 goals.

Yet Beckham, with his worldwide popularity, brings a different element to the game. Since signing with the Galaxy in 2007, he has generated a higher level of excitement and is happy to see the growth of MLS.

"The fact that there are new franchises, new stadiums built for soccer shows the growth of the game in this country," Beckham said in a phone interview Monday. "Philly is a great place for a soccer stadium and new franchise, and you can see the passion is there from the fans."

The Union are fourth in MLS in attendance, averaging 19,343 in 13 home games. PPL Park's capacity is 18,500, but the Union played two games at Lincoln Financial Field, averaging 29,950 there.

So the Union have sold plenty of tickets without a marquee opponent, but Beckham obviously helps in that department.

Thursday's game will be the Union's third sellout at PPL Park.

After being eliminated from playoff consideration last week, the Union now want to play spoiler. Los Angeles (16-6-5) leads MLS with 53 points, two more than defending champion Real Salt Lake.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.

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