Return of MLS' best strike duo? Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane ready to pair up again
The LA Galaxy's most deadly attacking lineup pairs Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan up top. It's a combination LA have rarely utilized this year, but after teaming their Designated Players together for 90 minutes during the International Champions Cup exhibitions, it's part of the plan going forward.
Whether that means they'll be on the frontline Sunday night at FC Dallas (8 pm ET, ESPN2) isn't certain, but head coach Bruce Arena promises they're going to see ample time together.
“That'll happen during the season,” Arena told media Friday from Miami, where the Galaxy wrapped up their ICC slate earlier this week. “Maybe not this game, but we'll see them together.”
Keane and Donovan return to MLS play Sunday after lengthy absences – Donovan since the end of June, while away with the US national team; Keane since suffering a torn hip flexor in a mid-June loss at Portland – and Keane is hopeful they'll be the forwards.
“If you look at last season, certainly the second half of last season, the way we played together, the two of us were always up front and, ultimately, we went on to win the championship,” said LA's captain, who has been paired primarily this year with rookie Gyasi Zardes or teen forward Jose Villarreal.
“I think the partnership [Donovan and I] have was very, very good. This year he's been playing more on the left or on the right, so hopefully it's the case now where we'll play up front together.”
They've spent a little more than one-and-a-half league games together this season: the final 20 minutes (each assisting the other's goal) in a 4-1 romp over Philadelphia on May 15, the final half-hour in a 1-0 loss at New York four days later, the full 90 in a 0-0 draw with Portland on June 19, and the closing minutes of a 1-0 win over Chivas USA on June 23.
Donovan has made five starts at forward, but with Keane only in the Portland game. He came on as a substitute at forward once, in his season debut at the end of March, moved from midfield to the frontline in five games, and switched from forward to midfield on four occasions.
But he and Keane played together the second half of LA's ICC win last weekend over Juventus – Keane set up Donovan's go-ahead goal and then added a late strike of his own – and the first half of Wednesday's loss to AC Milan.
- Get more LA Galaxy news at LAGalaxy.com
“I think getting Robbie, myself, Omar [Gonzalez, also returning from international duty] all back in the mix, having the majority of our starting group together helped a lot,” Donovan said after the Juventus game. “We feel like we're a team that can really do special things when we have our full group together.”
Keane has been building toward 90 minutes' fitness during LA's brief respite from league action, and his earlier-than-expected return to the field would likely have been impossible if not for the ICC matches.
“The last two games it's been good, playing 45 and 60,” he said. “So for me personally, in that respect it's been good, to get my fitness back after being out a few weeks. Now I look forward to Sunday's game, back to the bread and butter.”