CARSON, Calif. – There is mounting evidence that when Robbie Keane is on his game, the LA Galaxy can't be stopped. And that's got to be a concern for every other side aiming for an MLS Cup title this year, because Keane certainly is on his game.
He scored two more goals, his third and fourth in the past two games, on Sunday night to lead LA in a 3-0 rout of Seattle in the first leg of the Western Conference Championship, putting the defending champs within 90 minutes of their third MLS Cup appearance in four years.
He wasn't the only Galaxy star in top form: Mike Magee netted another goal, Christian Wilhelmsson played key roles on both Keane strikes and teamed with Sean Franklin to terrorize the Sounders on the right flank, David Beckham's long balls stretched the Seattle defense and fueled LA's counterattack, and Landon Donovan orchestrated it all before departing in the 82nd minute with hamstring tightness.
“The whole group tonight,” head coach Bruce Arena noted, “this was one of those nights where every player was on form.”
POSTGAME: LA know 3-0 doesn't mean series is over
Keane has been on form since returning from Euro 2012, scoring 18 goals with eight assists in all competitions in 24 appearances the past four-and-a-half months, and that's been a difference for LA.
“He's put together as good a second half of the year as anyone. ... His play has certainly been the catalyst for us,” defender Todd Dunivant said. “He's a guy that has so much quality that if you give him enough opportunities and give him the service that he needs, he's going to punish teams, and he's been doing that.”
He punished Seattle on Sunday, heading home a little cross from Donovan to provide an advantage just before halftime, feeding Franklin for the cross that Magee put away in the 64th minute, then racing in to finish Wilhelmsson's slow-roller for a three-goal lead in the 67th.
“Hopefully, [these two-goal games] can continue as long as the team keeps winning,” Keane said. “But whether I score or anybody else, it doesn't really matter as long as the lads are performing, and that's what we're doing at the moment.”
The importance of Keane's first goal can't be understated. Donovan said it “broke [the Sounders'] back a little bit,” head coach Bruce Arena called it “probably the difference in the game,” and Keane's take was that it “obviously killed them a little bit.”
The third goal might be more important; it won't be easy for Seattle to overcome a three-goal deficit in next weekend's second leg. That one might have gone to Wilhelmsson, who outbattled Zach Scott for a deflected Donovan shot, and sent it rolling toward the net before Keane stepped up to poke it home.
“It was on its way in, but it's OK, as long as we win, 3-0,” Wilhelmsson said. “Better to be the one time too much than one time too less.”
Said Keane: “Listen, my coaches when I was a kid said make sure the ball hit the back of the net, so I wasn’t too sure who was around me, so I was just making sure, because they cleared a few off the line tonight, and we weren’t taking any chances.
“As I said, it doesn’t really matter who scored as long as we win the game.”