CARSON, Calif. – Robbie Keane says he's ready to go.
And so the LA Galaxy will send their first-choice attack – or as close to a first-choice attack as they can muster until Landon Donovan is fully integrated – against two-time defending champion Monterrey in Wednesday night's first leg of CONCACAF Champions League semifinals (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
The Galaxy captain, who suffered a calf strain in Ireland's World Cup qualifier in Sweden 11 days ago, says he's not fully past the injury, but told reporters on Tuesday that “it feels fine at the moment. I trained yesterday and today and I'm ready to go tomorrow.”
Keane sat out Ireland's qualifier last week against Austria, received treatment in Dublin, then worked with the Galaxy's medical staff after flying to Southern California. He was confident all along he'd be ready to play.
“In your head, you always believe you're going to be ready,” Keane said. “But until you actually do some running. I came in Sunday myself to do some stuff with the physio and did some running on the field. Once I got through that running, I knew I was going to be ready for this game. But in the back of my mind, I kind of thought I was going to be ready [all along]. But you never know.”
Reports from Europe maintained Keane was hurt when he was kicked in the 0-0 draw with Sweden on March 22, but he's not sure how it happened.
“Didn't even feel it in the game. Just afterwards,” he said. “The next day I felt it, so I went for a scan, and the scan obviously showed it was a strain. ... The doctor said a couple of weeks – like two weeks, maybe. It's been 10 days. I'm back. Obviously, I'm delighted with that.
“I was expecting a bit worse, to be honest with you. Full credit to the physios here and the doctors back in Ireland. They did everything to get me back as quick as possible.”
“Once I'm playing, I'm playing,” he said. “Once I start, I'll be ready to go [for 90 minutes].”
Keane figures to be partnered up top by Jose Villarreal, who scored a vital goal in the quarterfinal decider against Herediano and a stoppage-time equalizer in last weekend's draw at Toronto FC.
“He's our leader on the field, and we've got out goalscorer back,” Villarreal said of his well-traveled strike partner. “It's good to have him back. Just happy he's back and Landon's back, so we're adding more strength to our team.”
LA will need whatever strength they can get. Monterrey have lost just three times in 30 CCL matches and are in their best form of the year, with just one loss in its last seven games, a span in which Los Rayados have scored three goals three times and two twice. The Galaxy could use an advantage heading into next week's second leg in Monterrey.
“Like every game that we go into, we go in to win,” Keane said. “Don't think for one second we think they're better than we are. Look at the team we have; we're as good as anybody. We'll give anybody a game.”