CARSON, Calif. – Robbie Keane's return from his latest stint with Ireland's national team doesn't necessarily make the LA Galaxy's problems disappear, but it's a big step forward for the MLS Cup champions.
Keane just scored five goals in a four-game run for the Republic – including a hat trick in the World Cup qualifying victory over the Faroe Islands – and LA certainly could use that kind of production after successive blowout losses at New England and Real Salt Lake left them at .500 (6-6-2).
The Galaxy have lost the last four and are 2-5-1 this season in MLS games Keane has missed, while dominating most of their league foes when he's on the field. They head into Wednesday night's clash with the Portland Timbers (6-1-8) at the StubHub Center (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) having lost five of their last seven MLS games.
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“It's certainly not just down to me” said Keane, who netted a hat trick in his last LA appearance, the 4-0 romp May 26 over Seattle. “Missing, obviously, [Omar] Gonzalez, off with the US national team as well.
"Hopefully, we can with me back this week and the training the lads have had [during a 10-day break] ... get back to winning ways again, because when you start losing a few games in the spin, it's not good for confidence. So it's important we get back to winning ways as soon as possible.”
Left back Todd Dunivant's return from injury and the acquisition of Pablo Mastroeni, expected to start Wednesday in central midfield, adds experience and leadership near the rear, where the Galaxy have repeatedly faltered at key moments this year.
Things are nearly as bad up top when Keane isn't around: They average 2.5 goals per 90 with their captain and, with a young frontline short on experience, less than a goal a game without him.
“Robbie's on an incredible goalscoring tear right now, every level with every team,” Landon Donovan said. “Even when he doesn't score, he causes so many problems and headaches for the other team. I would hate to be a defender playing against him, because even if he doesn't get on the scoresheet, he impacts the game in such a significant way.”
Keane, now Ireland's all-time caps leader (127), played for Ireland at Wembley for the first time, netted a pair of goals in a friendly victory over Georgia, had his hat trick in the qualifier vs. Faroe Islands, then wrapped up his trip with last week's friendly against Spain in New York. He kept up with the Galaxy while away.
“I didn't see the games, I saw the goals [conceded],” he said. “I mean, it's obvious when you concede that many goals, it's certainly something wrong. Clearly, it hasn't been good enough. Just have to get back to basics and try to score more goals than the opposition. ...
"The good thing about football is there's always another game, isn't there? So we can certainly turn it around in the next weeks, and that's what we'll be hoping to do this week.”
Scott French covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com.