Robbie Keane has a striking season for LA Galaxy

Robbie Keane has a striking season for LA Galaxy
October 31, 2012, 5:42 pm
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FILE - In this March 18, 2012, file photo, Los Angeles Galaxy forward Robbie Keane celebrates after scoring against D.C. United during an MLS soccer match in Carson, Calif. At rear is Edson Buddle. In his first full MLS season, Keane finished fourth in the league with 16 goals in just 28 games despite making numerous exhausting trips around the world as Ireland's captain. He led Los Angeles in scoring while Landon Donovan and David Beckham struggled with nagging injuries. (AP Photo/Jonathan Moore, File)

(APWF)

CARSON, Calif. (AP) Robbie Keane bristles at the very suggestion that anybody on two continents might have even wondered if he's lost a step.

Sure, Keane had a rough summer at Euro 2012. So did his entire Irish national team, outscored 9-1 in three ignominious losses.

The charismatic striker has proved he's still on top of his formidable game during a dynamic season for the Los Angeles Galaxy, and he's hoping to keep showing his form with another month in the MLS playoffs.

Not that anybody should ever doubt him in the first place.

``I played in the English Premiership for a long time, scored over 120-odd Premiership goals,'' Keane said Wednesday after training with the Galaxy, who open defense of their MLS Cup title against Vancouver on Thursday night. ``I think you don't really have to (prove anything). I think the records speak for themselves.''

In his first full MLS season, Keane finished fourth in the league with 16 goals in just 28 games despite making numerous trips around the world as Ireland's captain. He led Los Angeles in scoring while Landon Donovan and David Beckham struggled with nagging injuries, propelling the Galaxy through four largely outstanding months of play.

``I feel good. I feel really sharp,'' Keane said. ``I'm just going to continue to do what I've been doing in recent form.''

But none of it will mean much to Keane unless the favored Galaxy manage a victory over the Whitecaps in their knockout playoff game, setting up a conference semifinal series against top-seeded San Jose.

``I never look back. Always look forward, always,'' Keane said. ``I've never done that as a player, through good times or bad times. I'm one of those people in life, always on to the next day.''

Keane's recent past has been particularly sharp. He scored five goals in five games during a late-season stretch that secured Los Angeles' spot in the playoffs, constantly penetrating defenses with the speed and skill that hasn't changed much since he scored 125 Premier League goals, 11th-most in history.

Keane's teammates are even more impressed because he has spent a big chunk of the season warding off jetlag and exhaustion. The trip to Euro 2012 was a rough assignment, and Keane took a significant share of the criticism for creating little offense up front for Ireland, the first team knocked out of contention.

``I know how difficult it is, traveling back and forward and playing in international games and then coming back and playing in regular-season games,'' Beckham said. ``It's tiring on the body and on the mind at times, but Robbie has been able to overcome that. It's a testament to him as a person and as a player. His first full season, he's come in, he's scored goals, he's had assists, he's worked hard for the team, and he's one of the big reasons we're in the position we're in right now.''

Beckham also can relate to the criticism Keane receives from Irish fans. After all, he faced many of the same complaints about his role on England's national team in recent years.

Keane remains steadfast in his commitment to Ireland, although embattled manager Giovanni Trapattoni left him off the 26-man squad for a friendly against Greece on Nov. 14 while he evaluates new players.

That's good news for the Galaxy if their playoff run picks up steam, because Keane has been arguably their best player during a season that included two goals on his 32nd birthday in July during a 2-0 win at Chicago.

``He's an outstanding player, and his form has been excellent,'' Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. ``He's been a great leader. He shows he wants to be here.''

Keane is making $3.4 million as an MLS designated player this season, and he's warming up to the L.A. lifestyle. Keane and Beckham attended the Los Angeles Lakers' season opener together on Tuesday night, hobnobbing with Russell Brand and Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine at courtside.

``His English has gotten a heck of a lot better,'' Arena said with a grin. ``When he's complaining, we understand him a heck of a lot better now than we did when he first got here.''

Beckham even had a lively conversation with Lakers guard Steve Nash, a part-owner of the fifth-seeded Whitecaps.

The Galaxy's good feelings about their late-season surge could abruptly vanish if they can't beat defense-minded Vancouver, the first Canadian team to make the MLS playoffs despite winning just three of their last 17 games.

``I know people will be looking at them as maybe the underdog, but I don't see it that way,'' Beckham said. ``I don't think there are any underdogs in a one-off game. ... If we continue to play the way we've been playing in the last 15 games or so, we're probably the best team, and the momentum is in our favor. But it's completely different when you get to the playoffs.''