MIAMI - David Beckham, closing in on his
first title with Los Angeles Galaxy, could be upstaged by
lesser-known former English league players as the MLS season
reaches its climax.
Beckham and the Galaxy face FC Dallas in the Western
Conference final on Sunday and victory would send them to the
MLS final where they would meet Colorado Rapids or San Jose
Earthquakes - both guided by coaches born in England.
Colorado's Gary Smith played in the lower divisions for
Colchester United and Wycombe Wanderers and coached at Watford
before heading to the United States in 2008.
San Jose head coach Frank Yallop made more than 300
appearances at full-back for Ipswich Town and, although he
played for Canada, he too was born in the south of England.
Yallop has been in the MLS (Major League Soccer) for several
years - having finished his playing career with the now-defunct
Tampa Bay Mutiny - but Smith has grabbed attention this year by
leading the Rapids to their first play-offs since 2006.
Smith played under former Aston Villa and Celtic manager
Martin O'Neill at Wycombe and also cites former Arsenal and West
Ham United midfielder Stewart Robson and ex-Wimbledon manager
Terry Burton as strong influences.
"There are plenty of people that over the years have had an
impact on my personality and even the way to address people and
conduct yourself with senior and experienced players," Smith
told Reuters this week.
"Guys like Martin O'Neill are unforgettable. In the early
days of my playing career they had such an impact with the way
they conducted themselves."
Smith's success at Colorado this season has been built
around a high-tempo midfield feeding a dangerous strike pairing
of American target man Conor Casey and Jamaican Omar Cummings.
"I like them," said Yallop. "They are a good side. They move
the ball well. They are dangerous and difficult to contain
especially at their place.
"We have our hands full, that's for sure, in this game. Gary
has done a good job of making sure they stayed focused and got
their results when they needed to this year."
The only slight blemish on Yallop's career is an
unsuccessful spell at the Galaxy where the coach had to deal
with the sudden and frequent changes brought about by former
England captain Beckham's arrival.
"When you're not winning it's not fun and it's how you
address the group and it's how you conduct yourself. I think I'm
a positive person and I stayed positive," said Yallop.
"I could easily have crumbled and not been strong. I felt I
was a bit of an island down there at times, with what was going
on result-wise and all of the stuff going on away from the
actual game but I never doubted myself."
Beckham has only had positive things to say about Yallop
but, having lost last year's final, the former Manchester United
midfielder is desperate to bring the Galaxy some silverware.
"My drive has never been an issue. I've always wanted
success. I'm 35 now and I still want it as much as I did when I
was 18, 19," he said.
Bayern fans snap up 45,000 tickets to watch Champions League final live at Allianz Arena
When Sir Alex wakes up on Monday morning without team to manage, he will not be putting his feet up
Paris Saint-Germain midfielder announces he will be retiring at the end of the current season
Record goal-scorer signs a one-year contract extension with Europa League winners Chelsea
Ten years on, the legends speak to FFT
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
He's here, he's there, he's...
The cost of Premier League away travel
Nike CR7 IX for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010