Robbie Keane remembers what the LA Galaxy could do when he first arrived nearly three years ago, when they streaked to the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup double. They seemed, at times, unbeatable.
That was the Galaxy he saw Monday night in Seattle, where they scored three first-half goals, might have netted another few, and cruised to a statement-making 3-0 romp over the Western Conference-leading Sounders.
LA thoroughly dominated the first 45 minutes, then played a wise second half to pull within eight points of the lead in the Western Conference and Shield standings, with a game in hand.
"The way we played from start to finish, I thought was magnificent," Keane told reporters at CenturyLink Field. "Certainly, I think, our best performance all season. ... For me, this is the Galaxy of old. In the way we played, the shape that we played, the passing and the movement. The movement of the front four in the first half was the best in a long time.
"You look at how clinical we were in the first half, the reason why we were able to do that was because the way we passed the ball and moved it very, very quickly made it very, very hard for them to get the ball. I don't even think they got in our 18-yard box in the first half, so full credit to the way we passed the ball. And the second goal [by Landon Donovan], I'm sure it's probably at least 15 passes, 20 passes? It felt like that. That's the Galaxy of old."
The Galaxy went with a flat 4-4-2 alignment, rather than the diamond midfield they've utilized most of the season, and it enabled them to use the field's width to create and exploit space. They received exceptional play all around -- especially from Keane and fellow forward Gyasi Zardes, wingers Donovan and Stefan Ishizaki, central midfielders Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho, and outside backs Dan Gargan and Robbie Rogers - and it led to a one-sided affair that was over, for all intents, before the break.
"We had been playing in a diamond, which puts a lot more numbers centrally," Donovan explained. "This week it was pretty straightforward. You were playing against one guy, and at the end of the night, you want to look at our lineup and theirs and say who won each matchup. And I think tonight there's at least nine or 10 checkmarks in our column, probably 11, and that was important. We were able to open the field, we moved well, we passed well, and when we do that, we create a lot of chances."
Keane, who fares better with a flat midfield than the diamond, loved the system.
"We tried a different system the start of the season. Did it work? I'm not too sure," the Galaxy captain said. "But I certainly think the system we played here tonight, I think it probably suited every player -- to get the best of every player, not just a few players."
LA had a two-month unbeaten streak before last weekend's loss at Sporting Kansas City. Is this the victory that sends them streaking ahead?
"Let's not be so dramatic about it. It's just one win," Donovan said. "And when I look at the standings, Seattle are still far ahead. So we have a long way to go, but more than the win or the scoreline, I think the way that we played was important, and we always say that when we play that way, we're hard to beat."