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David Beckham is looking beyond his Galaxy finale

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David Beckham is looking beyond his Galaxy finale

CARSON, Calif. (AP) After six seasons as the worldwide face of Major League Soccer, David Beckham believes nobody should doubt it's a major league.

It's the third word in MLS that still bugs the English midfielder.

``Even after six years, I'm still personally getting used to calling it soccer,'' Beckham said with a grin Thursday. ``I still have my moments of saying football. To me, it will always be football, but I have adapted myself over the years. I think I've done pretty well, maybe, in the last year.''

Although Beckham is leaving the Los Angeles Galaxy after Saturday's MLS Cup, he plans to play a major role in the league's growth indefinitely. He began his last few competitive days in a Galaxy uniform with a training session for the defending champions' final match against the Houston Dynamo.

Beckham still won't say where he plans to play next, coyly deflecting the latest rumors of interest everywhere from Sydney to Monaco. But he reiterated his commitment to MLS, both as a future team owner and a cheerleader for North American soccer.

And while Beckham is the biggest name to wear an MLS jersey, he believes the wave of international stars heading stateside will only grow. He informed Robbie Keane of MLS' virtues before the Irish national team captain joined the Galaxy last year, and he didn't deny he'll help Los Angeles to recruit his own replacement as a designated player next season, whoever it might be.

``When I came over here, I committed to this team and I committed to growing this league,'' Beckham said. ``Just because I'm not playing here after the weekend, my commitment stays the same. I will do anything to keep these players coming over like Robbie Keane, like Thierry Henry. Anything I can do on that side of things, I want to do.''

Beckham's legacy is the subject of even more discussion than the MLS Cup this week, and that's fine with the league's top brass. After a rocky start to his MLS tenure when he struggled with injuries, pursued European loans and got booed by his own fans in Los Angeles, Beckham has emerged as the on-the-field force and off-the-field beacon that MLS expected to get when he arrived in 2007.

``Oh, I would love David to stick around forever,'' MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. ``It's been a great experience for everyone. But it's up to him to decide what his personal and family goals are. ... When David came here, people overseas described us as a retirement league. We've proven over the last six years that it's a very competitive league, and David has been a big part of that. Hopefully more players will be coming over here at a younger age.''

Garber can rattle off a list of ways his league has improved in the past six seasons, from arena deals to television contracts. He also realizes Beckham could have a loud voice in MLS affairs after his playing days.

``I think he would be a great member of the MLS ownership,'' Garber said. ``He's a serious guy. I don't think people understand what a business mind he has. He's always thinking about marketing, about branding, about everything that makes a successful business. I think he'd be a great addition to MLS.''

Beckham again confirmed he isn't leaving the Galaxy because of any problems with the management or coaching staff, saying only that he loves a challenge. He nearly wrapped up his Galaxy career last year after raising the trophy, but decided he still had unfinished business.

By reaching his third MLS Cup final in four years while playing at an elite level deep into his 30s, he believes he addressed it.

``I think I've matured,'' Beckham said. ``As you get older and you play more years in this game, your mind gets a bit quicker, to be honest. The legs might be a little bit slower than they were when I was 21 years old, but I've always said it, I've never been a quick player. Speed and pace have never been an issue for me in my game. You become more clever with your mind over the years.''

While deflecting widespread speculation he could become a significant investor in the Galaxy soon, he acknowledged he's proud of the effect he had on the franchise's growth and the league's maturity.

``It was challenging the first couple of years, but a challenge I knew I was going to be up against, and I knew I would succeed,'' Beckham said. ``Off the field, we've done a lot of hard work - not just myself, but the people around the league. They're the kind of foundations that this league needs. That's what happens in Europe, in the best leagues in the world. And the future is going to be bright.''

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Wilson's return sparks Capitals to a 5-2 win at Minnesota

Wilson's return sparks Capitals to a 5-2 win at Minnesota

Tom Wilson stayed on brand in his return from a long suspension.

The Capitals’ big man scored a goal and took a penalty on the same play in his first game of the season, a 5-2 win against the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night. 

Wilson won’t get the 16 games back he missed for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. But he tried to make up for it in his debut. 

Wilson scored Washington’s second goal at 19:32 of the first period when he drove the net hard and deflected a pass from teammate Dmitry Orlov past Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk. But this being Wilson, nothing is totally uncontroversial.  

The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder was moving fast. There was no stopping him. Wilson, with some help from Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, collided with Dubnyk. The puck was already in the net, but the referee decided Wilson needed to go think about what he’d done after Dubnyk got clocked in the head. It was a two-minute goalie interference call. 

That’s an odd play rarely called. Either the goal counts or it doesn’t, but maybe because Wilson had already scored before running into Dubnyk both calls could stand. 

“It was a first for me to score and get a penalty on the same play,” Wilson told reporters in St. Paul. “I was just going hard to the net and Snarls [Orlov] put it right on my tape. It was a great pass at full speed. I was trying to do everything I could to get out of the way. I’ll take the goal and the kill went out there and got it done. It was good to see.”

It was far from Wilson’s only contribution in his first game back. He also fought Marcus Foligno at 11:58 of the second period on the faceoff after Minnesota cut a Washington lead to 3-1. He didn’t back down when asked to go by Foligno. 

“He’s a key player for our team, brings so much energy both on the ice and off the ice,” forward Andre Burakovsky said. “Huge lift for the team to get him back earlier. Didn’t expect that and I think he had a really strong game today. Obviously, he got the goal in his first game back and then some dirty works. Obviously, I think he’s a huge guy for us in PK and it showed today.”

Wilson didn’t get the assist on the goal that put the game away. Alex Ovechkin found Orlov for a one-timer on a pass from the left faceoff circle to the right. But it was Wilson driving hard toward the goal that kept a Wild defenseman with him and allowed Orlov the space to finish Ovechkin’s pass. Those little things have been missed in the 16 games Wilson was suspended. He was relentless. 

One big issue for the Capitals: The penalty kill. Wilson has been a big part of that group in recent years and without him – and, to be fair the departed Jay Beagle and the injured Brooks Orpik – Washington entered the game 29thin the NHL in penalty kill percentage (71.7 percent). Wilson wasn’t eased into anything. He played 5:23 on the penalty kill and the Capitals killed five of six Wild power plays. 

[Wilson] does a lot not just on the ice, but in our room. Adds a ton of energy. Well respected player for how he trains,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden. “Going through a tough time and obviously kind of a surprise for us to get him back today. We were hoping to at any point here and we were able to take advantage of a fortunate bounce for our team before even the game started. But I didn’t expect him to have as strong a game as he did." 

"Obviously able to convert on a great play on a line rush, but just the other things he did. Our penalty kill, the opposition scores a goal and, you talk about shifts after goals, not giving the team any more momentum than they’ve already gotten and he gets in a fight there. There’s a lot to like about Tom Wilson and I thought he had a strong game. It was great to have him back.”

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Wild

4 reasons the Caps beat the Wild

Think the Caps missed Tom Wilson? It sure looked like it.

Washington looked like a completely different team with Wilson back in the lineup Tuesday in a dominant 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild.

Here are four reasons the Caps won:

Tom Wilson

Wilson made his season debut Tuesday after his suspension was reduced by a neutral arbitrator earlier in the day. Wilson’s addition to the lineup had two effects. One, it made the lineup a lot deeper. Without Wilson, Todd Reirden was having trouble putting together the right lineup. Several players cycled on the top line and every line behind the top had to shuffle. Wilson came back onto the top line and immediately the rest of the lineup fell into place.

The top line looked better, the second line looked better and the third line looked better with their regular lineups back intact.

Wilson’s return also brought a lot of energy to the team and that was evident from the very start of the game. The Caps outshot Minnesota 12-6 and took the 2-0 lead in the first period of the game. Compare that to the rather lethargic game we saw on Sunday, clearly, Wilson brought a spark.

Oh, yeah, Wilson has also had a pretty darn good game too. He scored in the first period of the game in a typical Wilson play. He completely blew past Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter and tipped in a pass from Dmitry Orlov as he crashed the net on goalie Devan Dubnyk.

Somehow Wilson was also given a goalie interference penalty… but the goal still counted? Regardless of what was an obvious reputation penalty, it was a good return for Wilson, who also had a fight with Marcus Foligno and helped set up Orlov’s second goal by crashing again and drawing the defense over to him.

Dmitry Orlov

Orlov broke a 19-game goal drought with a goal just 7:23 into the game.

Lars Eller had the puck and cut to the blue line in the offensive zone turning to the middle. Minnesota got caught puck watching as the defense shifted with Eller, leaving Orlov open on the left. Eller found him and Orlov took advantage of the extra space to score his first goal of the season.

Orlov would add an assist on Wilson’s goal and a second goal in the third period off a beautiful pass from Alex Ovechkin.

The typically reliable defensive pairing of Orlov and Matt Niskanen struggled at the start of the season prompting Todd Reirden to switch up the pairs and place Orlov with John Carlson. Clearly, the move had the desired effect in Tuesday’s game.

The schedule

Tuesday’s game was the Wild’s first at home since Oct. 27. Minnesota was coming off a seven-game road swing and they looked a bit weary at the start of the game. As mentioned above, the Wild were outshot 12-6 in the first period and then 15-8 in the second.

Really, this game was a perfect storm. Not only were the Wild tired from a lengthy road trip, but they also were dealing with a Caps team that was pumped up by the return of Wilson.

Part of what made Sunday’s loss to Arizona so disappointing was the fact that the Coyotes were on the second leg of a back-to-back with their starting goalie on IR. The Caps were not able to take advantage, but they certainly took it to a vulnerable, road-weary team on Tuesday.

The penalty kill

Washington’s porous penalty kill was the reason the Caps lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday and a major reason they fell to Arizona. The PK finally stood tall on Tuesday as the Caps were able to kill off four out of five penalties on the night. The lone power play goal the team gave up came in the third period when the Caps were already up 5-1 and the game was no longer in doubt.

You can add the penalty kill to the long list of things that Wilson instantly improved in his return. Wilson logged 16:47 of total ice time on Tuesday and 5:23 of that came on the penalty kill.

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