Photo by David Bernal/ISIphotos.com
By ADAM SERRANO
ALAJUELA, Costa Rica – David Beckham is expected to partake in the Los Angeles Galaxy's CONCACAF Champions League match against Alajuelense on Wednesday, and his attendance has already caused a stir in the local media. During the club's arrival at the airport, news crews crowded the team bus eager for a shot of the Galaxy midfielder.
Since joining the club in 2007, Beckham has played in two CCL matches, which both took place at home. The trip to Costa Rica is also the first time that Beckham has traveled to Central America throughout his illustrious career. Although Beckham did not make the trip for the Galaxy's game last week against Morelia in Mexico due to injury, head coach Bruce Arena stated that all players available for the Costa Rica trip and the Galaxy's match against the Columbus Crew on Saturday would travel.
"We’re just focused on this game and this team," Arena said. "You have to just see your players react after every game and the lead up to that game as well as whether or not they're up to playing. In David's case, we think that he's in much better shape this week than last week so we think that he's capable of playing."
Here are a couple of more notes ahead of the Galaxy's match with Alajuelense:
BIRCHALL EXPECTS HOSTILE ATMOSPHERE
Chris Birchall has been through the rigors of playing in Central America.
Now the Galaxy midfielder is looking to preach a little wisdom about Costa Rica’s notorious supporters to his teammates ahead of Los Angeles crucial Group A match. Fans in Costa Rica are infamous throughout CONCACAF for being some of the most passionate and fervent supporters in all the Americas who routinely make life difficult for traveling clubs.
Playing at the imposing Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto, Alajuelaense has already picked up one major scalp this tournament by defeating Morelia, 1-0. Having played in Costa Rica once before while with Trinidad and Tobago during a World Cup qualifier in 2005, Birchall understands how the Costa Rican fans can make a visiting team feel.
"[The fans] can make the away team get intimidated — not scared to play but on edge, like this is their home patch and they don't want anyone to come in and win the game," Birchall said. "I just think that's the mentality of [Central] American teams. I remember playing in Guatemala, Honduras, and they're the same. … I expect a tough game and a loud crowd."
Last week, a calamitous final 10 minutes proved decisive as the Galaxy conceded two late goals and had a legitimate goal waved off due to a phantom offside call before falling 2-1 to Morelia. With Alajuelense defeating Motagua in Honduras, the stage is set for an important fixture in Costa Rica.
Although their composure failed them at the end in Mexico, Birchall says that the game plan is very much the same.
"We've just got to try and get the same mentality as what we did in Mexico," said Birchall. "Go out, be patient, hold them for 20 minutes and try to get into the game then and steal a goal, which we did exactly, and then the last 20 minutes if you’re winning you know you're going to be under pressure, and try and hold out."
JUNINHO FACING FITNESS TEST
After dealing with a hamstring injury for the last two weeks, Juninho may make his return to the lineup in Costa Rica. The Brazilian trained with the Galaxy on Monday ahead of their trip to Costa Rica and head coach Bruce Arena stated that he will take a wait and see approach to his availability for the match against Alajuelaense.
Juninho has been out since Sept. 9 due to a hamstring injury suffered in the Galaxy’s 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids. The midfielder was given a red card the last time the Galaxy took on the Costa Rican side and was suspended for the Galaxy’s match against Morelia.
What do you think about Beckham making the trip and playing in the match? Do you think the atmosphere will throw the Galaxy off their game? Think L.A. would be able to overcome a potential Juninho absence?
Share your thoughts below.