CARSON, Calif. – Robbie Keane never wavered in his certainty that he could play for the LA Galaxy on Wednesday night, just a day after going 90 minutes in Ireland's final World Cup qualifier nearly 5,200 miles away.
Whether he could convince Bruce Arena was something else.
Arena had hoped to give his captain the night off against Montreal, but with the Galaxy's dominance in possession leading to few real chances, Keane got the call in the 60th minute and played an integral role in LA's 1-0 victory.
“I would have liked to not play him, but we needed to get Robbie on the field, and his presence was spectacular,” Arena said after the Galaxy climbed to third place in the Western Conference, just two points off Portland's lead. “He gave the team confidence, energy, the technical ability that we needed to try to break this team down.”
The Galaxy had asked that Keane be released for the game if Ireland's final qualifier, against Kazakhstan in Dublin, didn't mean anything. Ireland caretaker manager Noel King declined the request, however, and the star striker played 90 minutes, scoring on a penalty kick, in the Irish's 3-1 victory.
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Keane missed Ireland's loss Friday in Germany, a result that eliminated the Republic from contention, with a flare-up of a longstanding Achilles ailment – it was erroneously reported as an ankle and knee injury. But once that died down, he began maneuvering to see action when he returned to Southern California.
“It means a lot to me to play every game,” said Keane, who texted with Arena much of the day Tuesday. “My focus when I'm with the national team is 100 percent, and as soon as I finish that, it's the Galaxy. It was just a matter of me getting back and convincing Bruce that I want to be on the bench and be involved if needed.”
Keane's message to Arena mentioned that “if after 60 minutes, there was nothing really happening, then put me on.”
Arena's response: “Let's wait and see.”
Keane arrived at the Los Angeles airport at 4 pm PT and was at the StubHub Center by 6, an hour and a half before kickoff.
“I knew I'd be back in time,” Keane said. “I should have been back a lot earlier, but the flights [to London and then to Los Angeles] got delayed, so it was a little bit of pushing. ... It was a tight squeeze, but nevertheless I got here, and that was the most important thing.”
He brought life to the Galaxy's attack, was battling at the left post when Kofi Opare scored in the 68th minute, then hit the crossbar with an 85th-minute lob as the Galaxy posted back-to-back MLS wins for just the fourth time this year.
Jet lag wasn't an issue.
“The minute I get on that plane, I switch right to L.A. time,” Keane said after the game. “So I feel fine now. Maybe in a couple hours, it probably, certainly will hit me, but at the moment I feel fine.
“If I had gone home, I probably would have just ended up sleeping, which isn't good for the body clock, so it's good to get into the time zone straight away. No better [way] than playing a game, huh?”