SANTA CLARA, Calif. – There's not much argument about Chris Wondolowski's sure-thing MVP candidacy, not after a record-tying 27 goals and the San Jose Earthquakes' sensational Supporters' Shield run.
There might be as little doubt about who is Major League Soccer's best forward.
Robbie Keane made his case Wednesday night with a spectacular performance, punctuated by two superb goals, as the LA Galaxy overcame a first-leg deficit and pushed on to the Western Conference Championship with a 3-1 romp over Wondolowski and the Quakes at Buck Shaw Stadium.
The Irish striker scored in the 21st and 34th minutes, Mike Magee added another goal in the 39th, and the Galaxy posted a 3-2 aggregate win to advance to a showdown with Real Salt Lake or the Seattle Sounders for a berth in the Dec. 1 MLS Cup title game.
Keane has 16 goals and seven assists in 23 games, including playoffs and CONCACAF Champions League, since returning in late June from Euro 2012, and Galaxy coach Bruce Arena proclaimed him MLS' premier player after Wednesday's triumph.
“Robbie's a great player,” Arena said. “Robbie, since he's come back from the European Championship, has been the best player in the league. He scores big goals, he's competitive, he's bought into MLS, he likes LA, he's a great leader on our team and, when the whistle blows, he's ready to play. He's a great competitor.”
He was more or less unstoppable when LA most needed him, scoring the series equalizer with a blast off the left post following a nifty run from the left. He then fired the Galaxy ahead to stay with a run behind three defenders to collect a feed from Landon Donovan, dribble past Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch and deposit into an open net.
“We knew if we scored a goal, we'd get a few more,” Keane said. “We knew we'd always get chances. That was the case. We got the first goal, and then they sat back and let us play the game we like to play, get the ball to feet and that was the difference tonight.”
What's been the difference since the Euros?
“I knew when you play with this team, I'll always get chances. I'll always score goals and make goals for people,” he said. “Listen, it's about when you're enjoying your football. Before I left for the Euros, it's simple: The team wasn't doing well, and we're all to blame for that. We weren't working as a team, we weren't playing well together as a team. But since the Euros, we all had a break away from each other and came back and realized what a good team that we have.
“We still have the same team, really, that we had last year, and as soon as we get a few wins under our belt, we can turn around and benefit from the team doing well.”