CARSON, Calif. – Robbie Keane repaid the first installment of his freshly inked two-year, $8 million contract and gave an indicator of better times for both the Los Angeles Galaxy and Major League Soccer.
The Republic of Ireland striker displayed impeccable timing by scoring within 21 minutes of his debut to help the Galaxy (14-3-9) record a 2-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night and remain in first place in the Western Conference.
The Galaxy has made every effort to make Keane feel at home since he arrived from English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur this week, even laying two giant Irish shamrocks on the grassy viewing area behind one of the Home Depot Center goals.
But for all the pomp and ceremony that marked his arrival, he will eventually be judged on whether he can bring an MLS Cup to a club that desperately craves a tangible return for its outlay on superstars such as David Beckham, Landon Donovan, and now Keane.
It is hoped that by signing Keane, 31, while he is still in his prime, he can be a difference-maker in regular season games like this one and in the more pressurized encounters the team will face in the playoffs.
Donovan believes so. “What I was thinking was that when David arrived it was such a monumental moment,” he said. “Robbie signing was a big moment too, but it was not surprising. But he has a few good years left and this shows that guys are now coming here younger and younger and want to be here.
“It won’t happen overnight but we are certainly getting there.”
Keane’s goal was simple but impressive. Beckham’s loaded cross from the right bounced neatly for him, but there was plenty of work to do. A tiny head fake was enough to ice Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch, allowing Keane to drop his shoulder and tap the ball into an unguarded net.
Mike Magee rounded off the victory with a goal in injury time but all the talk was of Keane and the question of whether he can be the final piece in the Galaxy championship puzzle. On paper, his skills as a natural finisher, the exact facet the club has needed, would suggest so.
“He is so confident and comfortable on the ball that it is going to help our team,” said Beckham. “When you get a player with that much quality come in, it is not difficult to adjust to playing with (him). He got off the mark early and he is only going to get better.”
There is still the minefield of the playoffs to negotiate, where one bad game can ruin the most spectacular of regular seasons. But things are moving along nicely for the Galaxy, which has suffered while watching far lower-spending clubs such as the Columbus Crew, Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake lift the MLS Cup.
Pressure is firmly on the Galaxy, but it seems to be handled more easily than in the past.
“There is always a bit of pressure on you as a goal-scorer to get a goal quickly with a new club,” said Keane. “It was nice to get that out of the way, otherwise it can play on your mind a bit. Scoring is what I know and what I do best. I feel really good and confident in my own ability to do something here.
“For the goal, it was David’s quick thinking and I was ready for it.”
Saturday marked exactly three months to the day from the MLS Cup final, which will be played in Los Angeles. Winning that elusive trophy on home soil has long been the Galaxy’s dream. Keane’s introduction makes it seem that much more likely.