DAVID BECKHAM was forced to play 120 minutes with an ankle injury last night as LA Galaxy went down 5-4 on penalties in the MLS final after being held 1-1 by Real Salt Lake at Seattle.
The former England captain, scheduled to join AC Milan on loan next year in a bid to keep himself in Fabio Capello's thinking for the World Cup in South Africa next year, needed three painkilling injections on his bruised joint to make the glitzy showdown in front of 46,000 but he was clearly struggling - particularly in extra-time when he wandered up front to hobble about after the Galaxy had made their maximum three substitutions.
Beckham, who has also been suffering a "persistent cold" admits that, at 34, the "bones start to ache that bit more" and he looked like he could do with a break until the transfer window opens and he can return to Serie A action in January.
Still, Beckham was able to stick away the first penalty in the shoot-out only for the MLS's Most Valuable Player Landon Donovan to miss his first-ever spot-kick as the Galaxy threw it away.
Beckham and Donovan - at loggerheads early in the season after the American accused Becks of a lack of commitment - combined to produce the opening goal for Mike Magee four minutes before half-time.
But former Galaxy striker Robbie Findley levelled for Salt Lake in the 64th minute and, after seven minutes of injury time, the extra half-hour failed to separate the Galaxy's stars and the MLS's newest franchise.
Beckham, with his sticky-up Jedward hairstyle lampooned by the US commentators (see picture, they said "he loves to draw attention to himself", "he considers himself a fashionista off the pitch"), bravely stuck away his penalty in the shoot-out but Donovan, Jovan Kirovski and Edson Buddle all missed as it went to sudden-death and after £12m and three seasons, the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder failed to join Trevor Steven (Everton, Marseille, Rangers) as a title winner in three different countries.
Beckham said: “It’s quite a few times I’ve lost on penalty shoot outs now. It was Russian roulette, not a nice way to lose, but we can be proud of ourselves for getting to this point. But that’s the way it is in soccer.”
And with rumours that he will buy his own MLS franchise next season, Beckham insisted: “I’ll definitely be back to win the MLS title.”
Donovan said: "What you don't see is that this guy has been hurt or sick for probably the last seven games but he just gets on with it."