With the announcement that David Beckham will be playing his last LA Galaxy match in MLS Cup 2012, it's time for the career retrospectives trying to get a handle on the question "What did David Beckham mean to MLS?"
There's no denying the positive impact Beckham had on the team and it's international brand. Beckham still gets the loudest cheer in the prematch player introductions. His impact on the pitch is more debatable, as the Galaxy lost Beckham time to loans and injuries.
When we (and by we I mean Patrick Johnston) introduced Match Impact Rating over the course of a season a rating between 30-40 was considered good. Over the course of his MLS career, David Beckham averaged an MIR of 34.9. As to why he had a good MLS career and not a very good career, note Beckham's propensity to pick up yellow cards and his relative lack of goals.
Beckham averaged .65 points per 90, 3 goals and 6.7 assists per season. He also averaged 4.5 yellows per season. Beckham had a 15 point season in 2008 which he bested with a 15 assist 2 goal season in 2011. Beckham currently sits at 7 goals, a high which with the Galaxy, and 9 assists.
When he's been healthy and present Beckham has been great, but there were two full seasons and one half season where that wasn't the case. Beckham averaged 1344 minutes per regular season over his MLS career or about 15 games.
Even still, he compares well with his historical midfield counterparts. Cobi Jones averaged .58 points per 90 and Jason Kreis equaled Beckham's .65 per 90. Carlos Valderrama and his unforgettable head of hair averaged .75 points per 90.
Beckham certainly belongs amongst the MLS Hall of Famers, for his offensive contributions as well as all the off the pitch stuff. However, unlike the predictions that flowed as he joined MLS, he wasn't the best ever in MLS and he's not even the best of his MLS era. Dwayne DeRosario is currently averaging .68 points per 90 and Beckham's teammate Landon Donovan is the best of all time at .87 points per 90 with Preki right behind him at .86 per 90.
If the best knock against a player is that he didn't reach the level of Preki, Carlos Valderama, and Landon Donovan then it's safe to say David Beckham had a well above average MLS career. However, as the eulogizing continues over the next two weeks and into the offseason it's worth keeping in mind that throughout the Beckham era Landon Donovan continued to be the era's defining player on the pitch.
For more David Beckham memories, why not check out this video: