CARSON, Calif. – It's hard to argue with Chris Wondolowski's MVP honor after tying Major League Soccer's single-season goals record and leading the San Jose Earthquakes to the Supporters' Shield, but no MLS player had a greater impact from mid-June on than did Robbie Keane.
The Irish striker punctuated a superb final five months Sunday, converting a stoppage-time penalty kick to ensure the LA Galaxy's second straight MLS Cup triumph over Houston.
Keane was nearly unstoppable after returning from Ireland's disappointing showing at the European Championship, scoring 20 goals and dishing out eight assists in 26 games, including one in the CONCACAF Champions League, to spearhead LA's last-to-champs run.
The goals, though, tell only part of the story: His leadership abilities, willingness to drop deep for the ball, weaving runs to shake defenders and open space for himself and teammates and pivotal performance at the fulcrum of LA's attack made the greatest difference as the Galaxy marched toward the club's fourth MLS Cup title.
“Robbie and I, I think we grew up together in Brooklyn,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena joked of the 32-year-old Irish forward as they celebrated Saturday's MLS Cup victory. “We have the same kind of mentality. He is one tough bastard. Skillful, competitive, a personality – a great friend, a great teammate.”
The Galaxy fully believe that Keane, who struggled early in the season in advance of Ireland's first appearance in a major event in a decade and the first in the Euros since 1988, was the true MVP this season, considering how crucial he was to their midseason turnaround.
Keane, meanwhile, preferred to deflect praise.
“Most important thing in football is a team and [being] surrounded by players that help you,” he said. “You can't win a game on your own. I've been very fortunate to play with a good team, and we've been helping each other, and as long as the team's helped me to score goals and I can help them ... well, great.”
“Robbie's a clever player. There's no question about that,” Arena said. “I don't think Robbie relies on outrunning players, outjumping players. He's a thinker, technically terrific. He's just extremely clever.”
Keane says he's “very happy and very content” with the Galaxy, and “getting to the championship finals every year certainly does help” with that.
“I'm really enjoying me time here, and as long as I keep enjoying meself and as long as I let me football do the talking," he said. "I'll be very happy to stay here. I look forward to a number of years here.”
With another trophy on the shelf, he's ready to head “back to Dublin, play five-a-side with me brother and people like that to keep [myself] fit – that's all I usually do in the offseason. ... I shouldn't really say that to Bruce, in case I get injured.”
Arena, sitting down the dais from Keane, didn't flinch.
“He might have a pint as well,” the coach offered.
Said Keane: “A couple, probably.”