CONCACAF Champions League: Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan can feel chemistry growing
Keane scored twice in the final half-hour, both from Donovan feeds, as LA overcame a frustrating first half and a difficult foe to open their CCL campaign with a solid 2-0 triumph.
The Galaxy's captain had four good chances to hit the net before he finally scored in the 66th minute, and the difference was simple. Donovan, who came off the bench in the 61st, played a superb line-drive over the Costa Ricans' backline for Keane, who found the net via an unfortunate touch by Cartaginés goalkeeper Wardy Alfaro.
They hooked up again in stoppage, with Donovan playing Keane through from a Gyasi Zardes throw-in, and that second goal could prove valuable as clubs jockey for knockout-phase seeding over the next two months.
Keane, who scored a hat trick in the Galaxy's win this past Saturday over Real Salt Lake, or Donovan, who netted three a week earlier at FC Dallas, have played a role in each of the nine goals LA has scored in their last three games.
“You see the difference when Landon came on,” said Keane, who has 10 goals and nine assists in 14 league appearances this year. “We're very in tune with each other. We know each other's runs and where we want to be, so it was the case with the two goals, and lucky enough for us we got the two goals. It was a decent performance. It wasn't brilliant, but it was decent.”
The Galaxy found Cartaginés more aggressive than expected, and it took them time – and Donovan's insertion – to break Los Azules down. Keane thought LA “could have been a bit quicker in our passing and intensity of game,” but Donovan credited the opponent.
“When we passed the ball well, we opened them up,” Donovan said. “They actually, surprisingly, pressed quite a bit, which is a little abnormal for a [CONCACAF] team coming here. But if we made two or three good passes, we could break their pressure and then get a chance to go at them. I think our final pass, final shot let us down a little bit, so we needed to be a little cleaner. Robbie did that for us.”
Keane did so only after he was partnered by Donovan.
“Those two are in a great rhythm together,” head coach Bruce Arena said, “and they continue to be very dangerous.”
Offered Donovan: “He makes it easy for me. I know if I put the ball in the right spot, more often than not he's going to score. And I know if I make the right runs, more often than not he's going to get me the ball. So it makes it real easy.”
The key to all of it, he said, was Keane's “sublime” movement.
“He's very sharp, he's very active, and he's always playing with the defender's mind ...,” Donovan said. “As a defender, it's impossible to know where he's going to go, and if you're on the same page with him, he's going to make [the opponent] pay.”