Beckham's Galaxy debut awaits late decision

CARSON, California Fri Jul 20, 2007 4:54pm EDT

Los Angeles Galaxy's David Beckham looks up at fans during a trophy presentation at half time in the MLS All-Star game against Celtic FC in Commerce City Colorado July 19, 2007. Beckham's hotly anticipated debut for Los Angeles Galaxy is unlikely to take place against Chelsea on Saturday, although a final decision will be made on the day of the match. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Los Angeles Galaxy's David Beckham looks up at fans during a trophy presentation at half time in the MLS All-Star game against Celtic FC in Commerce City Colorado July 19, 2007. Beckham's hotly anticipated debut for Los Angeles Galaxy is unlikely to take place against Chelsea on Saturday, although a final decision will be made on the day of the match.

Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking

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CARSON, California (Reuters) - David Beckham's hotly-anticipated debut for Los Angeles Galaxy is unlikely to take place against Chelsea on Saturday, although a final decision will be made on the day of the match.

The England midfielder, signed by the Galaxy from Real Madrid on a $32.5 million five-year deal, has been struggling to recover from an injury to his left ankle.

"We're forever hopeful and, when I spoke to David this morning, he said he's feeling a lot better," Galaxy head coach Frank Yallop told reporters at the team's home stadium Friday.

"But we will have to wait until game day (to make a decision). He won't play a big part in the game, we know that, but we are hoping he can get some time on the field.

"He is desperate to play and wants to make his stamp on why he came over here to play."

Yallop said the Galaxy's coaching staff, in consultation with Beckham, would decide whether the former England captain would make his debut against FA Cup holders Chelsea.

Beckham played no part in Galaxy training on Thursday, instead spending his time with the team's physiotherapist and working out in the gym.

Although the 32-year-old has responded well to treatment since he arrived in Los Angeles last week, his ankle is still swollen and he does not want to run the risk of a setback.

"I am here for five years, not just for Saturday," Beckham told ESPN television during coverage of Thursday's MLS All-Star game against Celtic.

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"It's more important to me personally that my ankle is right and I don't think it'll be right for the game."

Beckham twisted his ankle playing for his country against Estonia in a Euro 2008 qualifying match last month.

He aggravated it in his final appearance for Real 11 days later when his former team clinched the Spanish league title.

Saturday's game at the 27,000-capacity Home Depot Center is a sell-out and the Galaxy's second-highest grossing fixture since the MLS side hosted Real a year ago, with Beckham playing for the opposition.

The match is being televised by ESPN, who plan to use 19 cameras with one specifically earmarked to track the Galaxy's high-profile signing.

Although Beckham's absence from the pitch would be a bitter disappointment for fans and sponsors, Galaxy president and general manager Alexi Lalas said the longer-term picture was more important.

"This is not a robot running around that you just turn on," Lalas added. "The sponsors understand that and television understands that.

"We're not going to risk it if we believe that the amount of time that he does or does not play is going to affect him further on down the line."

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