Keane, Donovan, Birchall switch focus to nat'l team duties
CARSON, Calif. – One day after clinching a spot in MLS Cup, three LA Galaxy players will celebrate by hitting the road.
Robbie Keane (Republic of Ireland), Chris Birchall (Trinidad and Tobago) and Landon Donovan (USA) will all depart the club as they will each join their respective national teams.
Keane and Birchall will be gone through at least Nov. 15, while Donovan is slated to return sometime on the weekend.
“It’s not ideal timing,” Donovan said. “It’s the way it goes. It’s part of football. Unfortunately the way our league is set up it doesn’t quite coincide with the scheduling but it’s all part of it. We’re professionals and we go on with it.”
Donovan is leaving the Galaxy for a friendly for US team against France on Friday, but his two teammates will participate in much more meaningful matches.
Birchall will try and help Trinidad and Tobago secure a spot in the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying. The Soca Warriors will play Guyana in Georgetown on Friday and will play the Golden Jaguars in Port-of-Spain four days later.
Still, the toughest situation falls on Keane’s shoulders. Keane will try to guide Ireland to their first European Championship appearance in more than two decades – Ireland’s lone tournament appearance came in 1998. Ireland play Estonia in a two-leg playoff, on Friday in Talinn, and will host the Blueshirts in Dublin on Nov. 15.
Shortly after the victory over RSL, Keane said he switched his thoughts to the Irish.
“It’s a massive, massive week,” Keane said. “My focus now is 100 percent on the Irish team as soon as I leave this dressing room, and it’s always been like that. I look forward to it and I’ll hopefully come back for the final with the Irish team in the European Championship.”
Playing 90 minutes in a critical playoff match and then boarding a plane bound for Dublin less than 12 hours later is an atypical situation, but don’t bet on Keane complaining about it.
“It’s something I have to do,” Keane said. “I can’t be moaning about it because it’s the situation I’m in. I’m OK. I leave [Monday] and I’ll be OK.”
Keane was unable to play in Ireland’s 2-1 win over Armenia on Oct. 11 due to adductor injury and had not played afterward until the Galaxy’s playoff opener at New York on Oct. 30. In a span of eight days, though, Keane played in three games, logged 262 minutes and scored a goal.
“You don’t usually get three games in a week after being out for three-and-a-half weeks, but as a player, I don’t mind that,” he said. “It’s good to get my fitness in as well. For me it’s important as well to get these three games, obviously with these two games coming up. I feel sharp right now and it will have me in good standing now for the next few weeks."
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org