Room for improvement

DEREK VAN DIEST

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- He's hands down the best player on the field.

That's only a part of the reason why $250 million came his way to ply his trade in North America's Major League Soccer. But it's what matters most to the hopes of the Los Angeles Galaxy.

But going from the star-studded lineup of Real Madrid to playing in the MLS has been an adjustment for David Beckham.

An injury-plagued first season aside, and despite all the glitz and hoopla surrounding him off the field, the 32-year-old midfielder is still considered one of the top players in the world.

"At the end of the day I'm a positive person and I believe that wherever I am, or wherever I'm playing, there are great players in that team," Beckham said.

"That's the way I personally look at it, whether I'm playing for Manchester United, or Real Madrid and playing with Ronaldo and Raul.

"I'm here playing with players that have a lot ability and I can see that."

It's not as though he's surrounded by a bunch of stiffs with the Galaxy.

Striker Landon Donovan is considered by many to be the best American-born soccer player of all time.

Heading into last night's match against Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center, Donovan, 26, had 83 career goals in the league.

Carlos Ruiz, another Galaxy striker, can't even walk down the street in his native Guatemala because he's so popular.

Yet Beckham is on another level, which has been evident early into the MLS season, as a number of his perfect crosses and pinpoint passes have gone to waste. It's something Edmonton fans will get a chance to see in an exhibtion match against the Vancouver Whitecaps on May 13th at Commonwealth Stadium.

"Of course, I get frustrated sometimes, but it's not just here. I would get frustrated at Manchester United, Real Madrid or playing for England," Beckham said.

"If you're a passionate person about your job and what you do and what you believe in, it doesn't matter where you're playing or who you're playing with, you're going to get frustrated."

Beckham going from the Spanish first division to the MLS would be comparable to a top NHLer going to play hockey in Switzerland.

The Spanish league is considered one of the best in the world. The MLS is still trying to make a name for itself.

By bringing Beckham to the Galaxy, the goal was not only to increase the profile of the league and the sport in North America, but to help raise the level of play.

He increased the profile just by stepping off the plane with his pop singer wife.However, injuries limited him to just five appearances last season, which led to some criticism and added extra pressure on him this year.

Having played in the cauldron of the Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Old Trafford in Manchester and in three World Cups with the English national team, Beckham is no stranger to pressure.

"That's part of the game these days," he said. "I don't feel any added pressure. It's pressure that I'm enjoying. I enjoy coming into a situation like this where it's a challenge. I'm enjoying it."

Beckham played every minute of the first four regular-season contests for the Galaxay, scoring a goal and setting up three others. By contract he has to play at least 45 minutes in Edmonton, though in recent exhibitions prior to the MLS season he has played the full 90.

"He's clearly not past his prime," said Donovan. "People can say what they want, but that's clear to me and I'd tell you if I thought otherwise. He's still a very good player and he's still very effective."

Beckham has been so good lately that he was recently called up to play for the England's national team in a friendly against France. It was his 100th appearance for England and probably not his last. England manager Fabio Capello said Beckham could be on the team for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa even though he would be 35.

"I would love to play in the 2010 World Cup," Beckham said yesterday.

"People talk as if I'm 36 or 37 years old and I'm only 32 at the moment. I feel I still have quite a few good years left in me. I think if I take care of my body, eat the right things and look after myself there is no reason to be involved in that."


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