Injury benches Becks

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

David Beckham will be a $250-million cheerleader tonight, unable to play against Toronto FC as starter or sub, fearing further damage to his left ankle.

Rather than leave 20,500 paying customers and an international TV audience guessing another minute, Beckham told a packed news conference at the Air Canada Centre yesterday that he will sit out what was expected to be his first Major League Soccer game for the Los Angeles Galaxy.

"I don't think I'll be available, unfortunately," Beckham said, setting off a blinding pop of flashbulbs each time he spoke. "I'm here (in the MLS) for five years and hopefully more, not just four or five games. People expect me to play at a high level. (Yesterday) was a big step, but unless there is a drastic change, I won't (play tonight)."

Galaxy coach Frank Yallop saw no scenario in which Beckham would make a cameo, such as coming in as a late-game change with the score one-sided and a substitution spot open.

"We're not trying to play (mind) games here," Yallop said. "It's clear by what he said (at the news conference) that he is not going to play."

The gifted right-footed Beckham sprained his left ankle in a Euro 2008 qualifying game in June, then played twice on it with three painkilling injections as his club season with Real Madrid ended. That aggravated it to the point of ripping ligaments, leaving "a bit of a mess," he understated, with the projected seven-week recovery period just ending.

So far, his playing record for the Galaxy has been 12 minutes in a friendly against English team Chelsea on July 21.

When Beckham's MLS arrival was announced in the new year, tonight's game at BMO Field was the first to sell out and was the catalyst for TFC reaching 14,000 season tickets. Up to 500 extra seats have been added for tonight, many selling for a few hundred dollars apiece.

"There came a point," Galaxy president Alexi Lalas said yesterday, "that marketing is one thing, but we have to get him healthy first. He wanted to make the trip. He wanted to be with the team."

Beckham gave the ankle a hard test yesterday at a closely guarded Galaxy practice at BMO. He ran straight lines behind the goal and down the side of the field, but can't yet turn comfortably and did not go near a ball.

Beckham, who has a torrid schedule of MLS games and obligations to play for England in the coming months, is now hoping for some game action at D.C. United on Thursday.

Though many have dismissed his foray into North American pro soccer as a gimmick to help he and his wife, Victoria, launch entertainment careers in Hollywood, he is adamant that he is "not here for the glitz and glamour, but to help put the game on the crowded sports map here.

"It won't be as big as the top four (baseball, football, basketball and hockey), but we can raise the profile," he said. "It's been a success already. A lot of people had never heard of the MLS before now."


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