SANDY — David Beckham will be in the starting lineup for the Galaxy this Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
He's not injured, he's not with AC Milan and he's not with the English National Team. He's actually healthy and available, and ready to suit up for the team he signed a contract with more than four years ago.
It will be Beckham's first game at Rio Tinto Stadium — where the home team is unbeaten in 35 straight overall competitions — and just his third game against Real Salt Lake in nine meetings.
For a player who was there for the stadium groundbreaking as a member of Real Madrid, and there again as a member of the Galaxy to praise the construction progress five months before the stadium's grand opening, Beckham has been noticeably absent on the field.
Excluding the Real Madrid friendly at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2006, the only two matches Beckham has suited up for against RSL were on May 3, 2008, at Rice-Eccles Stadium and then in Seattle for MLS Cup in 2009.
Of the other six games, he was injured for three, on loan with AC Milan for two and with England for an international friendly for one.
He missed both RSL-Galaxy clashes last year while recovering from the torn Achilles tendon he suffered while on loan with AC Milan.
Many critics view Beckham's time in MLS as a major disappointment, citing numerous examples that it appears he doesn't really want to be here.
That's not the sentiment with Real Salt Lake.
"I think it's been a positive. I don't see how it can be a negative for the league. He brings in so many fans, he brings such a buzz about him," said RSL defender Nat Borchers. "And if he's got some controversy about him that's good for the league. Personally, I think he's a great player and good for the league."
RSL captain Kyle Beckerman believes Beckham's been great for the league, too, not only raising awareness about MLS overseas but in the United States for fringe soccer fans as well.
"Hopefully Beckham will bring the fans in (on Saturday) that don't usually come and then hopefully we'll put on a good performance and keep them for the rest of the season," said Beckerman.
Even though Beckham has seemingly missed as many matches as he's played in, RSL coach Jason Kreis still believes he's been good for MLS and the Galaxy.1 comment on this story
"We all feel like our league is more important in the sports scene in our country, so that for sure was a success. When he's at his best and in form, he's been certainly a very good player in our league. Competitively speaking, I'm also sure it's helped L.A," said Kreis.
His arrival in MLS was dubbed the "Beckham Experiment" in a book by Grant Wahl, but the jury is still out about how successful it's really been.
Since Beckham's signing, the Galaxy have played 119 matches between the MLS regular season, playoffs and CONCACAF. Beckham has appeared in 65 of those games and the Galaxy have zero trophies to show for opening their wallet.
Beckham is in the final year of his five-year, $32.5 million contract, and most expect him to be back in Europe in 2012.