Don’t be confused, boys and girls. Perhaps you haven’t read Grant Wahl’s seminal look at the arrival of Soccer Jesus (a.k.a. David Beckham) to American shores and think that Davey Becks himself is the star of the book. He’s not. The star is Alan Gordon, the journeyman forward scraping by on $30k a year and quipping his way into your heart. Gordo, now 30 years old and a part time player for the San Jose Earthquakes, just got his first USMNT call-up.
Gordon’s turn as the plucky grinder in Wahl’s chronicle of Major League Soccer’s leap onto the world stage was built on moments like this:
Joe Cannon took a sip of his drink and surveyed the scene. For nine years the Galaxy’s All-Pro goalkeeper had waited for this, waited for MLS to feel like the spectacle of the NBA and the NFL, waited for gorgeous women in skintight sequined tops to flash come-hither looks his way just because of the team he played on. Cannon knew this would happen once Beckham arrived. Wasn’t that what he’d said at Cobi Jones’s birthday party in June when one of the players’ girlfriends had asked if Cannon was dating anyone?
“Nah,” he replied. “I’m kind of waiting for David to get here.”
“What does that mean?” Alan Gordon asked.
“You know, all the girls.”
Gordon couldn’t take it. “Joe, what do you think is going to change?” he asked. “Seriously. You’re still the same person. Like a girl is going to want to get with you just because David Beckham is on the team. What are you gonna do, pull a little Beckham out of your pocket and say, ‘See, look! Here I am!’ No, dude.”
Beckham had opened an entirely new world for the Galaxy. For the first time in its history, the team was flying charters instead of using commercial airlines on this ten-day, three-city road trip to Toronto, Washington, D.C., and New England. MLS had always forbidden charter flights, claiming they provided a competitive advantage, although the players reasoned that the ban was the result of the league’s cheaper owners not wanting to be pressured into an arms race. (“Don’t you want to have a competitive advantage in everything that you do?” Donovan asked.) MLS had relented somewhat upon Beckham’s arrival, allowing the Galaxy to charter on his first road trip due to security concerns, and AEG had sprung for the expense. For most of the players the flight from LAX to Toronto was their first noncommercial trip. When the flight attendant came to offer Alan Gordon a pretakeoff cocktail, he looked around at the first-class leather seating, the lie-flat beds, and the fully stocked bar up front.
“Let me tell you something, ma’am,” Gordon said, turning on the charm. “This is nicer than my apartment.”
The flight attendant laughed.
“No,” he replied. “I’m serious.”
Gordon is just about as prototypical an MLS player as they come, which is why (combined with his complete lack of awe re: Beckham) he comes off so lovable in the book. This is how Grant Wahl put it to Adam Spangler in 2009:
Going in I knew that would be one of Beckham’s biggest challenges to try and relate to teammates who were making such a microscopic fraction of his salary and his income and whose fame was minuscule, nonexistent really, compared to him. And yet a guy like Alan Gordon was going to play a lot and be relied upon to finish a lot of the passes that Beckham was giving him. That to me was a crucial part of the story. Alan Gordon to me is very symbolic of the MLS player. So many players in MLS, most of them American, make almost no money—Gordon made $30,000 for four years and only later got a bigger contract, which was still not guaranteed. But he kept performing and was asked to do a lot of things in front of crowds of 66,000 people in New York when he is getting paid $30,000 a year. He represents this huge section of MLS players who don’t get a lot of recognition and probably deserve a lot more.
And now he’s a United States international for the first time. After initialing naming a 22-man roster for the American visit to the hostile environs of Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Klinsmann tacked on Gordon’s name late Sunday night.
Does that mean Gordon was a fill-in for someone (likely Europe-based) Klinsmann wanted more? Maybe, but who cares? The Legend of Gordo grows, in no small part because of his nine goals this year. Gordon has played a large part in the Quakes success, which has them atop the MLS standings.