Beckham likely to take field for Saturday practice
TORONTO - David Beckham is coming to town. And he will be on the field Saturday at BMO Field for a Los Angeles Galaxy practice.
That was the early word Thursday from Toronto FC, which says a Beckham news conference at the Air Canada Centre is still on for later Saturday. But Toronto FC officials weren't sure about whether the former England captain, still carrying an ankle injury, would actually make his MLS debut Sunday evening.
The "will he, won't he'' game played out another confusing day in Toronto on Thursday.
A Toronto FC spokeswoman said Beckham was coming and would be training Saturday. Coach Mo Johnston said he didn't even know if Beckham was travelling.
Johnston did deny a report earlier in the week that had him saying Beckham won't play.
"I was misquoted,'' the Scottish coach said.
"Listen, it's up to (Galaxy coach) Frank Yallop, it's up to David Beckham, if he plays or not. ... Can we expect to see him? I don't know. Maybe yes, maybe not.''
Toronto co-captain Jim Brennan seemed to be in the "maybe not'' camp.
"Everybody's looking forward to this one,'' he said. "It's unfortunate Beckham's not going to be playing because I think a lot of people have been looking forward to that.''
Pressed on the matter, he said he didn't know about Beckham's status.
Beckham has played just 12 minutes in a Galaxy uniform, appearing as a substitute in a 1-0 friendly loss to Chelsea on July 21. He has missed three non-league games since then and has hardly trained.
Sunday's contest is nevertheless drawing a crowd. Toronto FC say more than 70 photographers and 100 reporters are expected. Three different TV networks are showing the game: CBC, ESPN 2 and Fox Sports West.
Like every other Toronto FC home game to date, it is a sellout of 20,000 and change. For this one, however, some 500 extra seats have been inserted at field level -- folding chairs positioned on the edge of the field to the north and east.
Those in the temporary seats at the north end may want to wear protection or else hope the players are on target when they shoot at goal.
Given Beckham's lack of training, a cameo appearance as a substitute would seem the most optimistic option.
If Thursday's weather holds, the Galaxy will arrive Friday to conditions reminiscent of a prison planet. The temperature was 33 Celsius and felt like 36 Thursday, with both an extreme heat and smog alert.
The forecast calls for a high of 29 Sunday with isolated thunderstorms, although a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff will help.
The Galaxy will also become acquainted with the huge crowds of the Caribana festival as they make their way to BMO Field on Saturday.
Beckham's ankle is the least of Toronto's injury concerns. Toronto's walking wounded include strikers Danny Dichio (back, hip flexor) and Jeff Cunningham (abductor), midfielder Ronnie O'Brien (knee), defenders Brennan (ribs), Andrew Boyens (concussion) and Marvell Wynne (hamstring) and goalkeeper Greg Sutton (concussion).
All but Brennan are expected to miss Sunday's game. Brennan, who took part in practice Thursday, will be a game-time decision.
Johnston said striker Andrea Lombardo also took a heavy knock in practice Thursday.
Johnston has found goalkeeping help, identified by a source as 27-year-old Kenny Stamatopoulos, who had been with Tromso in Norway. He was due to arrive Thursday afternoon from Europe and will probably come on board as part of a loan deal.
The six-foot Stamatopoulos was born in Greece but came to Canada at 10 months. He grew up in Toronto, playing for the Scarborough Azzurri Blues. When he was 16, he was noticed by the University of Chicago soccer coach at a U.S. tournament. The coach went on to join Greek team Kalamata and Stamatopoulos was given a tryout.
He subsequently left the Greek side and played in Sweden and Norway.
Toronto is 5-9-4 in the Eastern Division basement and is coming after a woeful 3-0 loss to visiting Chicago that prompted Johnston to rip his players.
The Galaxy are 3-5-4, second from the bottom in the West, although they have played far fewer games than the competition because of the league's desire to make the most of Beckham after his late arrival from Real Madrid.
Of the Galaxy's 18 remaining league games, 11 are on the road. Beckham may miss some of them if he is summoned by England again.
Johnston believes the league is a asking too much "for someone to come in to a different country, to a different climate and the travel and play all those games. it must be tough for the kid.
"No doubt they'll try to take care of him and rest him in certain games. It's going to be difficult.''