CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy reversed their decision and will now allow Robbie Keane to join up with the Republic of Ireland for friendlies against England and Georgia.
Previously, the club insisted it would hold firm to FIFA guidelines and release Keane only for the World Cup qualifiers versus the Faroe Islands and Spain. However, since Omar Gonazlez will join the U.S. national team for a pair of friendlies (and subsequent World Cup qualifiers), the Galaxy decided to make Keane available as well.
"In reflecting over it, if we're required to release U.S. players, how can we not allow other internationals to go?" general manager and head coach Bruce Arena said. "If we're allowing U.S. players in friendlies then we have to do. It creates an awkward situation."
Arena said that MLS "mandated" teams to release American players, but not other nationalities. In a deal with U.S. Soccer, MLS players available for the next five U.S. internationals won't be called up to the Gold Cup roster (though they may join the United States after the group stages in one of four permitted late additions).
"In all fairness it's the right thing to do," Arena said. "If our U.S. internationals are going for friendlies then others should. We're on the same team here. It's not one rule for one and one for another."
The former U.S. national team coach pointed out that if he had his way, none of his Galaxy players would be released except for official FIFA dates, but "fairness" dictated allowing Keane to join up with Ireland.
Keane will miss the match against the New England Revolution playing against England at Wembley as part of the Three Lions' centenary celebrations. Arena dismissed the possibility of flying Keane back after the England friendly for the Revolution match, and then back to Europe for World Cup qualifiers.
"We were going to send him to the moon as well but we weren't able to get a rocket ship in time," Arena said.
Keane's desire to represent his country, which he captains, played a part as well. If the 32-year-old striker sees minutes in three of the upcoming four matches he will overtake Shay Given as Ireland's most capped player.
Additionally, Keane was in attendance as a fan the last time Ireland and England met, in 1995. The friendly was abandoned after a riot broke out in Lansdowne Road.
"He was telling us stories of the last time that Ireland and England played," Omar Gonzalez said. "There was a bunch of fights. He was in the stands. I think this will be a good one for him. He really wants to go."
Ireland hasn't faced England in a competitive match since 1991.
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