CARSON, Calif. -- The Republic of Ireland’s gain may not be the LA Galaxy’s gain as well.
When Ireland routed Estonia by 4-0 in the first leg of their 2012 European Championship playoff series on Friday, it made Tuesday’s return leg in Dublin almost a moot point.
But it’s the “almost” part that keeps it from truly benefiting the Galaxy.
In light of what appears to be an insurmountable lead, LA made an attempt to get Robbie Keane back early ahead of Sunday’s MLS Cup. But the Ireland captain chose to remain with his country for what could be an historic accomplishment.
“Robbie needs to be there for Ireland,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said Monday in a conference call. “He’s the captain of the team. They’ve not qualified yet for the European Championship and Robbie will be there.”
As shot after shot from Ireland hit the back of Estonia’s net, Arena’s eyes grew big and the prospect of getting Keane home earlier than anticipated seemed possible. A conversation between Arena and Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni ensued, but on Monday, Arena said he thought differently.
“I had asked Mr. Trapattoni if he would give it consideration,” Arena said. “However in reflecting on that, I really believe that he does belong with the Republic of Ireland for this game in that he’s the captain and they haven’t made it [yet]. I wanted him to at least consider limiting his minutes if that was possible.”
Ireland finished second to Russia in Group B of Euro 2012 qualifying. Paired against Estonia in the qualifying playoffs, Ireland took advantage of facing against a relative lightweight, dismantling Estonia in Tallinn and setting the stage for what would be just their second appearance in a European Championship.
So on Tuesday, Ireland will hope to qualify for their first confederation championship since Euro 1988, and Keane will be there to lead them.
“They need to do what they need to do to qualify. If there’s an opportunity for Robbie to get limited minutes, he will. We’re hopeful that happens,” Arena said. “Obviously the Republic of Ireland has to make sure they assure their qualification into the championship next year.”
Keane, though, is not a player who seems overly affected by travel and transatlantic flights. After all, he traveled to Los Angeles for the first time in his life on Thursday Aug. 18, then made his debut two nights later with a goal.
“Robbie is the kind of guy that can step off the plane and play,” Arena said. “That’s the way he is. We’re going to certainly give us a couple of easy days and have him ready for Sunday.”
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org