Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard find instant chemistry for LA Galaxy in comeback win over San Jose

CARSON, Calif. -- The idea of what Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane might achieve in tandem was most tantalizing for the LA Galaxy and their fans, but the reality looks even greater.

And with Giovani Dos Santos soon to arrive, plus the return of Gyasi Zardes -- among others -- from the CONCACAF Gold Cup, there seems no limit to what the reigning MLS Cup champions can achieve.

That's the view following the Galaxy's mesmerizing 5-2 comeback victory in Friday night's California Clasico against visiting San Jose, in which Keane netted another hat trick and Gerrard scored in his MLS debut, assisted Keane's winning strike, drew a penalty kick for another goal, and hit the crossbar with a free kick.

It was enough to send LA (9-6-7) atop the Western Conference, at least for the moment, while creating dazzling scenarios of what could be coming next.

“Listen, it's up to us, really. It's up to us,” Keane responded when asked how high LA can go. “If we continue on and continue plugging away with the [return of] players that aren't here ... certainly the next, second half of the season is looking good.”

Gerrard and Keane's connection seemed to grow exponentially as the night went on. LA started slowly, conceded two goals three minutes apart by Quincy Amarikwa, then took command as Gerrard won a penalty for Keane's 30th-minute strike, netted the equalizer seven minutes later, then set up Keane's 64th-minute winner with a sizzling free kick.

Gerrard hit the crossbar in the 70th, Keane connected on another PK in the 80th, and Sebastian Lletget -- scoring in his fifth successive competitive game at StubHub Center -- added a stoppage-time header as LA scored five goals for the third time in four MLS home matches.

“Robbie and Stevie looked like they'd played together before,” head coach Bruce Arena noted. “Obviously, two very good players, and this is why we have Steven Gerrard here. We think he's a player that's going to make our team better.”

Keane and Gerrard needed a little time to get onto the same page -- Gerrard's goal followed his pass that was a few yards behind Keane, who tracked it down and fed Baggio Husidic for the cross that resulted in the strike -- but once they were clicking, they were virtually unstoppable.

“We had that chemistry [during Keane's half-season with] Liverpool,” Gerrard said. “When you play with good players, it's easy to connect. Robbie's on the wavelength, he's a very intelligent player, he's done it here for many years -- you have witnessed that. He's the MVP [in MLS].

“For me, it's quite easy to connect, because I know where he's going to be. We've got a great understanding. I'm sure that relationship is just going to get stronger. I think we we add Dos Santos into the mix as well, we could have a formidable frontline.”

Gerrard played into the 88th minute, far beyond what was expected.

“Bruce was shouting on 'how you're doing' for about 60 minutes, but I pretended I couldn't hear him, just looking away,” Gerrard said. “I felt like a kid out there today. I didn't want to come off. I want to play as much football as I can. One of the reasons why I came to this team was to start all the games and play as many minutes as possible. I was determined not to become a squad player. I feel like I've still got energy. I still love the game, I'm really enjoying training, I'm settling in pretty nicely, so so far, so good.”

Keane, who has nine goals in 12 games this season despite missing two months with a groin injury, labored much of the night after “puking all afternoon” with a stomach ailment.

“I didn't think was going to play,” he said. “At 2 o'clock today, lying in bed ... well, my wife said you're not going to be playing, but I said I'll be playing.”

He indicated he loves playing with Gerrard.

“You could see the combinations, the 1-2s we were playing was very, very good,” Keane said. “As the game went on, we were getting better and better.”

Gerrard, he said, would be “getting better and better” as he becomes integrated with the Galaxy.

“There's no question,” Keane said. “The last few games you've seen glimpses, and he looked strong tonight. ... You've seen from the first game to now, the difference already in how he's progressing, how stronger he's looking, how fit he's looking, and he's only going to get better.”