CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy captain Robbie Keane knew just how important Wednesday’s clash with the Montreal Impact was for the team’s bid to qualify for the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs and he was not going to let a little thing like jet lag stand in the way of playing.
Keane played the final 30 minutes as a second half substitute for LA in their 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact on Wednesday just hours after returning from international duty with Ireland.
The last 24-plus hours were a whirlwind for Keane, who overcame an Achilles injury to go 90 minutes and score a goal in Ireland’s 3-1 win over Kazakhstan in Dublin on Tuesday. Immediately after featuring for Ireland, he hopped on a transatlantic flight to LAX via London’s Heathrow Airport with hopes of taking the field for LA against Montreal.
By 4 p.m., he was in Southern California en route to StubHub Center and already making his case to LA head coach Bruce Arena to get in the squad. A little before 9 p.m. PST—or just before 1 a.m. in Ireland, Keane was on the field for the Galaxy after flying13 hours and 55 minutes over the course of 5,157 miles.
“I knew that I would be back in time [for the game]. I should have been back a lot earlier, but the flights got delayed, but I got here at four o’clock,” said Keane, who admitted that he felt no jet lag from the travel. “It was a bit of a push and by the time I left the airport, it was already 4:15 p.m. It was a bit of a tight squeeze, but nevertheless, I got here and that was the most important thing.
“Of course, it means a lot to me to play all the time,” Keane added. “As I’ve mentioned before, my focus when I’m with the national team is 100 percent and as soon as I finish that it is the Galaxy. It’s just a matter of me getting back and convincing Bruce that I wanted to be on the bench and be involved if needed.”
It didn’t seem to take much convincing for Arena to allow the team’s leading goal scorer to sit on the bench in a crucial match as both parties were in constant contact during Keane’s international shift with Ireland.
“He told me he was playing, I have been in touch with him via text messages and he indicated to me from yesterday on that he was going to be ready and I said let’s wait and see,” said Arena, who described Keane’s play against Montreal as ‘spectacular.’ “He arrived...and walked in and said he was ready to go, to give us as many minutes as we need.”
Once on the field, Keane provided an immediate spark in a Galaxy attack that had struggled to truly get in gear against a resolute Impact side. Eight minutes after coming on, Keane was in the mix during the Galaxy’s lone goal of the evening as he was involved in a sequence that helped set up Kofi Opare’s tally.
A goal that Keane joked afterward may have been his for the taking.
“He stole it off me. I told him to never do that again,” the affable Irishman said. “It was tough finish because he was facing the wrong way and he squared his body nicely and got a shot off to score.”
That wasn’t the only influence that Keane had on the attack however as he nearly found the back of the net in the 85th minute with a chip shot that was tipped off the bar by Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush. Even though he was unable to tally, the Irishman’s quick return made a major impact on his teammates.
“He’s a true captain and a true pro. It just shows how much this team means to him,” said Opare. “He came in here and wanted us to do well. He came in with jet leg after going 90 minutes [on Tuesday] and really led us to victory.”
With the victory over the Impact, the Galaxy move into a tie for third place with Seattle Sounders FC with just two games left to play. In a heated playoff race that has the Galaxy just two points back of Supporters’ Shield leading New York Red Bulls, the LA captain believes that the victory over Montreal may signal a major turning point in the team’s quest for a third consecutive MLS Cup title.
“This could be the game changer, you know? This could change everything I reckon and I hope it does,” said Keane. “I feel a good spirit. When you’ve got players missing and other players step up, that’s important because as you go into the [end of the] season, you need your whole squad. It’s all to play for.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com