Growing up in England, Andy Rose could usually predict one of the presents that he would get under the Christmas tree every year.
It was a virtual guarantee that in one of the packages would be a Manchester United jersey.
And if Rose was getting a Manchester United jersey, there is no doubt that “Beckham” would be across the back of it.
The tradition started even before Beckham sported the No. 7 shirt that he famously wore with the Red Devils.
So when Rose scored his first MLS goal on August 5 in front of over 60,000 fans at CenturyLink Field, it was pretty surreal for the rookie midfielder from UCLA that David Beckham would be on the other side of the field with the LA Galaxy.
“Getting to play against him, you’re so focused that you just brush that stuff aside,” Rose smiled. “But looking back now, to know that my first goal came in that game … He was always my idol, so it’s pretty cool.”
On Saturday, Beckham played his last game for the LA Galaxy, winning his second consecutive MLS Cup title with a 3-1 win over the Houston Dynamo.
Rose, and many players like him, grew to love the game while watching and emulating the now-37 year old superstar.
“I just wanted to be like him. All the hairstyles I would copy – I even had the faux hawk when I was 11 or 12,” Rose said. “You can’t help but look up to him in awe, really.”
Now, as MLS looks back on his six seasons with the Galaxy, the impact can be seen on several different levels. The most prominent is in the star power within the league now, as the signing of Beckham in 2007 started a wave of talented players from around the world coming to Major League Soccer.
“There’s a lot of talent in this country and he brought another dynamic to that,” Rose said. “Thierry Henry is here. Tim Cahill would still be one of the best players at Everton. There are rumors of a guy like Frank Lampard – top professionals that have been among the top two or three players in the world.”
With those additions, the level of play has risen dramatically and young American players are more frequently taking the MLS route over playing in lower levels in Europe, further elevating the talent level in the league.
Furthering that growth has been the inclusion of more and more MLS players on the US National Team.
“I’m sure a lot of young American players would still love to go to Europe, but there’s no real need to now. A lot of the National Team players are MLS guys,” Rose said. “To get into that set up, you don’t really need to be playing in Europe anymore. I’ve only been playing here for a year, but that’s kind of a testament to David Beckham.”
During his six years in the league, everyone has their own memories of Beckham. And Rose always will remember his first goal for many reasons, not the least of which is his post-game conversation with his childhood idol.
“I’m sure there are millions of guys out there like me,” he said. “For me to be the one to play against him, score against the Galaxy and shake his hand and have a word after is something that I’ll probably remember for a long time.”