CARSON, Calif. — Chances are, if you followed the English Premiership at all over the last decade, you knew of Robbie Keane’s caliber.
It was no surprise, then, that LA Galaxy players knew they’d gotten a high-quality teammate when Keane joined the Galaxy last week. But seeing the club’s high-profile acquisition firsthand caused Keane’s new teammates to shake their head in disbelief.
“He’s a different class,” Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee said. “We all knew that anyway, but to see it live, without any training, just getting off a flight is amazing. It’s going to be amazing saying one day I played with this guy.”
The longtime Tottenham Hotspur player made a stunning debut on Saturday, scoring a goal in a 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes. Given his résumé — the 10th all-time scoring leader in Premier League history — finding the back of the net was not exactly something surprising. The manner in which it came and the circumstances in which it came in, though, may have been.
After all, Keane had stepped foot in Los Angeles for the first time in his life about 52 hours before kickoff.
“When he gets settled a little more, when he’s not less than 48 hours from getting off a flight, you’ll probably see a little more energy,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “But I thought he was in great spots; he did well with the ball.”
There were times during the match when Keane was inadvertently running shoulder-to-shoulder with a teammate, perhaps not figuring out the team’s tactics and positioning quite yet. But mostly Keane put himself in good positions throughout his 72 minutes of action.
In the 21st minute, Keane got onto the end of a long ball from David Beckham. The ball sailed over the top of San Jose’s defense and Keane got to it, shimmied past ‘keeper Jon Busch and easily scored goal No. 1 of his MLS career.
Such a sequence may be a common scene.
“It’s great to have a player who knows where to run, who you know is going to be on the end of the ball when you play that pass that’s going to set up a goal,” Beckham said. “He’s just going to help the team. He’s going to give us confidence, he’s going to give us goals. It showed [Saturday].
“He’s so confident and comfortable in front of the goal, he takes his time and he scores,” Beckham added. “Let’s hope he continues to do that.”
While his Galaxy teammates and Major League Soccer may be still a mystery to him, moving off the ball, setting players up with passes and finishing are things Keane has done quite well since he was a teenager.
“It was clear [Friday] what type of player he is and how he moves,” Donovan said. “Like I said when David got here, good soccer players are easy to play with. He’s a very good soccer player. For all the goal scoring he does, his passing is good and the way he uses the ball is very good also.”
And even though he did well to put a ball in the back of the net and fire off a few other dangerous shots, the team’s play around him may not have been the best, which actually may offer an even more fear-provoking thought.
“On a night when we play better,” Donovan said, “he’s going to have a lot more chances.”