CARSON, Calif. — For his introductory press conference on Friday, Robbie Keane was given a hero's welcome by the LA Galaxy.
On Saturday, Keane showed his appreciation by scoring his first Galaxy goal barely 21 minutes into his debut — and slightly more than 48 hours after stepping foot in Los Angeles for the first time in his life — as the Galaxy beat San Jose 2-0 at the Home Depot Center.
“I repaid them with a goal,” Keane said after the win. “Hopefully there are a lot more to come.”
A day after a multitude of well-wishers greeted Keane to the Galaxy, the Irishman bagged his first MLS goal and gave hope that the Galaxy found their ace goal scorer entering the most crucial part of the season.
“We’re elated with Robbie,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “I think he had a great 70 minutes for us tonight and we think there are a lot of great games for Robbie in our team.”
Keane was quite active on his debut despite having little knowledge of how his new team plays, San Jose's defenders, or the style of play in MLS. He helped spring teammates on with passes, made runs, and put himself in dangerous positions.
On the goal, David Beckham played a long ball over the top of San Jose’s defense and Keane ran onto it, eluded ‘keeper Jon Busch, and easily slipped the ball into the back of the net.
“Fantastic finish on the goal,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “He made it look easy — it’s not an easy play. He made Jon Busch look foolish and scored the goal. It was a fantastic goal and that’s what we want from him.”
The goal was perhaps the best way for Keane to start off his Galaxy career, particularly given the lack of scoring prowess his predecessor, Juan Pablo Ángel, showed during his time with the Galaxy.
“It was a great night, obviously Robbie playing for the first time,” said Beckham, who's now tied for the league lead in assists with 11. “It was a good game for him to get off the mark with a goal straight away. It’s always important for a goal scorer to do that.”
Perhaps the only criticism was the offside calls that went against Keane in the first half as well as a close-range shot that he powered over the crossbar in the second half. All told, Keane played 72 minutes in his debut, exiting the match midway through the second stanza in favor of Mike Magee.
That he had been across the pond until Thursday seemed to have no influence on how he played.
“If you’ve seen me play over the years, I like to play with energy,” Keane said. “I’ve always done that. I had a good night’s sleep last night, so I wasn’t really too worried about that. There is certainly a lot more to come from me.”
At what point, then, did Keane run out of gas?
“I didn’t run out of gas,” Keane said. “Bruce just took me off. I wanted to stay on. It was obviously the right decision with the travel and the few days. I felt good considering I’ve only trained once with the lads.”
The match, though, was more than just about Keane. The Galaxy saw their lead in the Western Conference stay at six points over Seattle, and they're now eight points clear of FC Dallas. Earlier Saturday, the Sounders edged FCD 1-0.
Additionally, the win over San Jose gave the Galaxy three consecutive victories, all coming at the Home Depot Center, and boosted the team’s confidence entering a difficult situation at the end of the week. They will play LD Alajuelense in a CONCACAF Champions League match at home on Aug. 25, then will travel to New York for a league match against the Red Bulls just three days later.
For now, though, the Galaxy will put all of their efforts in the Alajuelense match and will hope to win their second Champions League match in as many games.
“We have to win that game Thursday,” said Arena. “We’re going to prepare our team in the best way to win. We think we need to secure six points in the first two home games in this competition. We probably won’t even think that much about New York.”