LOS ANGELES – The timetable for Robbie Keane's return from a torn hip flexor was next weekend's game at FC Dallas, but the LA Galaxy captain thought he might manage a few minutes during the International Champions Cup friendlies, likely in the tournament finale on Aug. 7.
The Irish striker always figured he's be back sooner than expected, but his return to the field Saturday night -- and his performance over 45 minutes in LA's 3-1 stunner over Italian champions Juventus -- was most unexpected, indeed.
Keane set up Landon Donovan's go-ahead goal in the 60th minute and netted one of his own in the 88th to secure the victory and send the Galaxy to Wednesday's third-place game in Miami, against an uncertain foe after event organizers abruptly altered the format Saturday night.
Keane came on at halftime for Jose Villarreal and partnered Donovan up top, providing good energy and connecting LA's attack in a deserved victory -- the club's first against a major European club -- in front of 40,681 at Dodger Stadium.
“For me, it was about 45 minutes, getting the fitness in. And trying to be as sharp as I can,” said Keane, who tore his left hip flexor in the Galaxy's July 13 loss at Portland and missed two league games and Thursday's ICC loss to Real Madrid. “For me, the most important game is next Sunday against Dallas. That's the game you have to play in.
“[This game] came at a good time for me, to be honest with you, because I've been out injured now for [three] weeks, so it was good to get 45 minutes and face more minutes on Wednesday. I look forward to Wednesday.”
Keane set up Donovan after Marcelo Sarvas stripped Arturo Vidal at midfield and quickly played the ball forward. Keane arced a long ball toward the far post, and a streaking Donovan had a simple finish.
The Irish international scored a goal of his own after a horrid back pass from Andrea Pirlo left him one-on-one with Maro Storari, who replaced Gianluigi Buffon at halftime.
Keane had returned to the training field Monday but hadn't participated fully before the tournament kicked off.
“Our plan all along was to get him some minutes; most likely it was going to be on Tuesday, Wednesday next week,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “We thought 30 minutes tonight, but gave him the start in the second half, and if he had to come out, we were prepared to take him out. I was pleased he was able to get through the 45 minutes.”
Donovan was playing his first game with the Galaxy in more than a month, after his glorious CONCACAF Gold Cup and last week's MLS All-Star Game, and Omar Gonzalez also returned from the Gold Cup/All-Star Game with a nifty first-half goal, a rare run-of-play strike with his feet.
LA didn't have all of its usual starters – goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini sat out again with a back ailment, and A.J. DeLaGarza played in Sean Franklin's right-back slot – but it was the most potent lineup they'd fielded since Donovan left for the US national team at the start of July.
“I think getting Robbie, myself, Omar all back in the mix, having the majority of our starting group together helped a lot,” Donovan said. “We feel like we're a team that can do really special things when we have our full group together.”