Not celebrities. And not Thierry Henry or Robbie Keane, two of Major League Soccer's marquee names.
Real stars. The kind when you see when you take a good, hard shot to the head.
Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy were pushed, shoved and jostled virtually the entire game, but they earned a 2-1 victory in the second of a two-game series against the New York Red Bulls to advance to the MLS Western Conference finals.
There was little time to celebrate afterward. The Galaxy, who won the aggregate-goal matchup 3-1, will play host to Real Salt Lake at 6 p.m. PT on Sunday at Home Depot Center, where LA is 13-0-5 this season.
The win keeps the Galaxy right on course. They finished with the best regular-season record and have been favorites all along to reach the MLS Cup final on Nov. 21 — a game scheduled for their home pitch.
There were a few bumps Thursday, starting with Luke Rodgers' goal in the fourth minute that gave the Red Bulls a 1-0 lead, essentially tying the series. Then Beckham went down in the 32nd minute after heading the ball awkwardly near the center of the field. At the same time, he took a shot in the back from Dane Richards.
Beckham was clearly woozy. He stood up, went down to one knee, ran a bit, then sat down and finally laid flat on his back. He rejected an offer of a stretcher but staggered to the sideline, took a whiff of smelling salts and went back in.
"I think I just headed the ball wrong," he said. "I headed the ball, but obviously I've had issues with my back all season and it was just a spasm in my lower back."
Asked why he seemed to be holding his head in pain, he smiled and said, "Uh, my hair was messed up."
Ten minutes later, Beckham set up the tying goal on a perfectly placed corner kick that was headed in by Mike Magee past Red Bulls goalkeeper Frank Rost.
"His effort was great," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said of Beckham. "He's a player with an unbelievable desire to win and compete. When we got down a goal, David helped pick up the team. He was an inspiration to our team."
And there was still more. In the second half, Beckham took another body shot when New York defender Roy Miller shoved him from behind and kicked him in the side near the New York goal. Beckham went down face first, earning a penalty kicked that Landon Donovan converted for a 2-1 lead.
At that point, the Galaxy could finally start to breath easy.
"It was a difficult game, very physical," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. "Spotting — that's not the right word — spotting New York a goal in the first three minutes. They earned it. Our players showed the character by getting even and having a pretty good second-half performance."
But they stayed steady in the second half, even if they weren't always artistic.
"We didn't get off to a very good start, and the first five minutes were sloppy when they scored a goal," Keane said. "But we showed our character in abundance by coming back. Everyone worked really hard tonight. In these games you have to have 100 percent effort, and everyone did that."
No one was more worthy than Beckham, who was beaten and battered but not down. So, given his rough night and his back, can he come back Sunday?
"If anyone can do it, it's David," Arena said. "If he's ready, he's obviously going to go. We have a couple of weeks off after Sunday's game, one way or the other. Our guys will be ready to play."