COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Colorado Rapids striker Caleb Folan has trained and played with Robbie Keane for the Irish national team on a few occasions.
But his first experience of the new LA Galaxy forward came well before their days together on the international stage — it was when they were both at Leeds United in the early part of the last decade.
Folan, who was born in Leeds but qualifies to play for Ireland through his grandparents, was a young player starting out with his first professional club in England. Keane, who played for the Yorkshire club between in 2001 and '02, had already played for Italian giants Inter Milan and was the team captain.
“I was very excited to see [Keane] and I thought to myself as young player, that I have to watch this guy and learn a lot,” Folan told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “He is a very clever player and I learned a lot about his movement playing alongside him in training.”
Folan did spend a lot of his time at Leeds not actually at Leeds, as he was loaned out several times, but he remembers Keane having a major influence both on and off the pitch. It’s the same type of senior influence Keane brings to the Ireland national team.
“He’s more of a teammate,” Folan said. “What I do remember at Leeds is he spoke to a lot of the younger players — we had a lot of Irish lads there. He’s a normal guy, very focused on playing the game and performing and he works very hard.”
Folan, who has scored five goals for the Rapids in his debut season, said he knew nothing about Keane’s move to the Galaxy and hadn’t discussed anything about it with him. What he does know is that it is a tremendous move for both Keane and MLS.
“That was a vision of his,” Folan said. “It’s amazing for the league. He’s a very clever and experienced player and he will bring flair, creativity and definitely goals.”
Folan continues to work on his own international career by trying to stay healthy and play well in Colorado, and build upon his seven caps for the Irish team (pictured above). Keane is Ireland’s all-time leading scorer with 51 goals in 109 appearances.
Folan said he remains in contact with Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni, who on Tuesday named his squad for the two crucial Euro 2012 qualifiers next month at home to Slovakia (Sept. 2) and away to Russia (Sept. 6). Folan wasn’t in the squad; Keane, to no one’s surprise, is.
“I’m not trying to force any situation and I’ll just see what happens,” Folan said. “I’ve had a few injuries and I just want to play consistently.”
Folan could face Keane on Sept. 9 — just three days after Ireland's game in Russia — when the Rapids travel to Los Angeles if Keane is ready to go.