CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy have put up phenomenal numbers at home the past month or so, and it just so happens to coincide with Robbie Keane's full return to fitness following two months on the sidelines with a groin ailment.
MLS's reigning MVP has been at his best in July, and his back-to-back hat tricks in league play were honored with MLS Player of the Week honors, the latest following his performance in last week's 5-2 comeback rout over the San Jose Earthquakes.
Now he's hoping to find similar success on the road, starting with Saturday night's Western Conference meeting with the Houston Dynamo (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
“[It's about] fitness. Just feel good, feel 100 percent,” Keane said following Thursday's final LA's training session before they depart for Texas. “It was, obviously, a frustrating couple of months I was injured, so I've come back fit. I feel great.
“I feel like I'm kind of at my best now. Hopefully, it continues.”
Since returning to the field with an assist on Alan Gordon's stoppage-time winner in a May 22 victory over the Dynamo at StubHub Center, the 35-year-old Irishman has netted 11 goals in a dozen games, all told. That includes seven goals and a couple of assists in his last four MLS outings.
“It's a good moment, and I think when you're in a moment like this, you don't take things for granted, which I don't,” said Keane, who also scored hat tricks in a June 17 US Open Cup victory over amateur side PSA Elite and a July 4 rout against Toronto FC, and netted a goal with two assists in a June 24 rout of Portland. “I work hard every day.
“I'm one of those players, I want to score a hat trick every week, so that drives me on. I know it's not going to happen, but that drives me on to want to be successful and want to score goals and do the best for the team.”
Keane's return and the addition of midfielder Sebastian Lletget brought consistency and dynamism to what had been a mordant attack as the Galaxy fought through an early-season injury crisis. LA have been overpowering at StubHub of late, scoring 25 goals in their last five matches, all competitions.
It's led to superior ball movement and fluid interchange, reminiscent of the Galaxy at their best last season, and that in turn has provided Keane opportunity.
“When you're playing like that, with freedom and stuff like that -- which seems to be the way at the moment; the team has better flair, better pizzazz about us – so we're good to watch, at the moment. That's how I like to play. I like to play for teams that people like to watch. At the moment, that's the way we are, but we need to continue to do that and not take our foot off the pedal. Just keep going.”
Keane and Steven Gerrard, who made his MLS debut against San Jose, have created instant chemistry, and with Giovani Dos Santos set to arrive at the start of August and next week's return from the Gold Cup of Gyasi Zardes, among others, the Galaxy look like a frightening prospect for the rest of the league.
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“On paper, it's always scary,” associate head coach Dave Sarachan said. “The challenge is always what's it look like, and it's going to take time to figure out what our best lineup is, what our best system is. But if you have Robbie fit and Gerrard fit and Dos Santos comes in fit, we'll have some opportunities to score goals.”
Keane, who this year has nine goals in 12 league games (and 13 in 16 matches of any stripe) for a nearly four-year total of 62 in 96 MLS games (and 87 in 140, including everything), can progress a little further. He's not quite at full command, but he's getting closer.
“We haven't had our best lineup [yet], so I think when we keep him healthy and we keep pushing the rest of the group and get our first line in there, I think we'll see more from Robbie in terms of creating more chances,” said Sarachan. “We're seeing more of his movement and cleverness and sharpness, and the hat tricks have been good, but it's not like he's had seven or eight shots on goal. He's so clinical, he didn't need it.”