It took just 12 minutes for Robbie Keane to remind MLS, what it’s been missing while he was at the European Championships with the Republic of Ireland.
Receiving an inviting entry pass from Steven Gerrard at the top of the box, Keane turned, beat a defender, and produced a world-class finish to give the Galaxy an early 1-0 lead against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
“As soon as Stevie [Gerrard] gets the ball, I know exactly where to go. I know what he’s going to do,” Keane said after the game. “We’ve done it for a long time and sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t. And tonight, for me, it went in.”
While Keane marked his return with a world-class finish, Gerrard has quietly gone about rediscovering his top form. The former Liverpool man also swung in the corner that led to Jeff Larentowicz’s 47th-minute header to rack up his sixth and seventh assists in his last 10 games.
While the Galaxy have been deprived of consistently fielding its ideal starting XI due to international call-ups, injuries and suspensions, Arena is confident that his side will be able to put together a strong run once everyone is back and fully fit. Keane and Gerrard are two major pieces to that puzzle.
“Chemistry. Experience. Confidence,” Arena replied when asked what Keane’s return brings to the Galaxy.
“Robbie, probably, his last full game was when he left here which would have been around May 22nd. It’s July 4th. He hasn’t played the whole time he’s been gone [with Ireland] and he’s going to have to work to get his fitness back, but he did a heck of a job tonight.”
As for Gerrard, Arena believes that the return of the Irish marksman and others to the fold -- US national team winger Gyasi Zardes went a full 90 in his first match since the end of the Copa America -- will only increases the midfielder’s output.
“As he [Gerrard] gets fitter and we get a little bit more coordinated and a better rhythm as a team in the attacking part of the field, he’s going to produce some numbers," Arena said. "He’ll get some goals and more assists, but tonight Stevie did a good job.”