Loss Angeles: LA Galaxy`s turnaround from worst to best in Major League Soccer, which could be completed with a win in Sunday`s MLS Cup final, has been largely due to David Beckham`s change in attitude, captain Landon Donovan said on Friday.
Donovan made stinging criticisms of Beckham in a book about the first two years of the England midfielder`s time at the Galaxy, claiming he was not a good team-mate and questioning his commitment to the team.
But since Beckham`s belated return from a controversial loan spell with AC Milan, the pair have gone out of their way to speak well of each other in public and the pre-final press conference turned into something of a mutual appreciation exercise.
Asked what could explain LA`s dramatic improvement in results, Donovan credited the stability created by coach Bruce Arena, then said Beckham was the other main factor.
"Candidly, the second (point) was David`s reaction to everything that was gone on," said Donovan.
"Life is about choices. He could have come in and chosen to be something different than he has been. He chose to be a man and to want this team to be successful.”
"Without him, we`re not where we are. We can cut in any way we want, but that`s the reality of it. He has been tremendous."
Donovan said much of Beckham`s contribution took place away from the media scrutiny and the stadium floodlights.
"What we see every day in the locker room, on the road, when we travel, has been tremendous. When your most talented player, or players, are doing that on your team then everyone else follows," Donovan added.
Beckham said Donovan fully deserved his award as the league`s Most Valuable Player and the striker was "a player that players ... look up to".
After injuries, absences and criticism clouded much of his time in MLS, Beckham has been more consistent and focused in the second part of this season and said he felt the team had got their approach right this year.
"It`s just been one of those years where there have been obstacles but it is about how teams and individuals respond to those obstacles. Some are bigger than others.”
"We`ve responded the right way. We`ve done it on the field and we`ve kept quiet off it.”
"We are aware of where we want to be at the end of the season," said Beckham.
The marketers will no doubt be dreaming of a last minute, title-winning free-kick from Beckham but the underdog Salt Lake are determined to write a different script.
Salt Lake scraped into the post season losing more games than they won in the regular season before victories in the playoffs over Columbus and then the highly-fancied Chicago Fire.
"We have been underdog for the last two playoff games and that suits us, we like it, we like the challenge," said midfielder Andy Williams.
"Our motto for the last two years has been to put the team first and that has paid off for us so far."