LOS ANGELES – When Landon Donovan returns to the LA Galaxy late next month, he won't be wearing the captain's armband. That's now in possession of Robbie Keane.
Head coach Bruce Arena acknowledged the change of captains for the first time during Wednesday night's team charity appearance at the Grammy Museum at the LA Live entertainment district, telling Galaxy fans that “Robbie Keane will be our captain to start the season, and he will be our captain this season.”
Keane, who also captains Ireland's national team, served last season as vice-captain to Donovan, who has been LA's official leader since returning from the 2006 World Cup, aside from David Beckham's reign the latter part of 2007 and during the 2008 season.
“He's a fabulous choice as captain,” Arena told media after the Galaxy's “Kickoff” assembly and unveiling of their second kit. “He's a quality player, he's a quality leader, so Robbie's prepared to lead this team.”
Keane, a Best XI forward who scored 23 goals in all competitions last season, has been a club leader since signing as LA's third Designated Player in August 2011.
“I didn't notice there was any change,” said midfielder Mike Magee, who figures to play up front alongside Keane in Donovan's place during Sunday's MLS opener against Chicago. “Robbie was ... I mean, I guess our captain. I mean, Landon wore the band, but I don't think anything is going to change with what [Keane] does or his presence in the locker room or around the field. But it's very deserving.”
Defender Todd Dunivant said that Keane “leads by example first and foremost. He's a bit of a jokester, and he's one of the guys – or, as he would say, he's one of the 'lads.' ... He's a guy that's passionate, and that shows on the field. It makes everybody better because he holds a certain standard that you have to meet, and if you're not, he'll let you know about it.”
Keane, 32, can be fiery, and when he is, his brogue can be difficult to decipher.
“He's the guy who's gonna let you know when things are good, and he's definitely going to let you know when things are bad,” Dunivant said. “He's a guy who easily leads by example and tends to use his mouth as well. ... Usually when he gets overly fired up, you tend to not understand a word he says, so you can kind of just nod and get away with it.”
The move has been expected since an exhausted Donovan took an extended leave of absence after last year's MLS Cup victory over Houston. The 30-year-old forward plans to return to the Galaxy the last week of March and likely will not play until at least mid-April, perhaps later.
“If Landon comes back and he's not officially captain, he's still going to be a leader and he's still going to be the heart and soul of this team, like he's been for [almost a] decade,” Dunivant said. “Landon will be fine, no doubt. He's not going to lose his standing in the team or his place in the team, and we all know that.”