CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy picked up a 2-0 victory in a closed-door scrimmage with UCLA on Wednesday, but more important than the result was the return of captain Robbie Keane.
Keane played 45 minutes in the second half of his preseason debut, scoring a goal from the penalty spot two minutes past the hour mark. Former UCLA attacker Chandler Hoffman opened the scoring for the Galaxy in the 27th minute.
The Bruins were an eager opponent as they sought to test themselves against the professionals, but in the end the Galaxy proved too much for the youngsters.
“It was a good run for our team,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “It was just practice. The UCLA players play hard and they pushed our groups for both halves so that was positive. … We were a little sloppy in both halves or passing could have been better, but it was a good exercise for us.”
The result helped bring the Galaxy’s preseason record to a healthy 4-1-1.
The Galaxy will take the victory as they continue their charge toward the season opener against Real Salt Lake on March 8, but to have their captain make his preseason debut after rehabilitating from offseason surgery on both his Achilles was a significant step forward.
“Robbie needed [the minutes],” said Arena. “It was his first run this year and we have to build on that. He did okay, his fitness isn’t there yet and he has to get his touch cleaner but it was a good first time on the field.”
Said midfielder Marcelo Sarvas, “Robbie did well. It’s always good to have everyone ready to play. The biggest question for us is when every player will be able to know each other. This is the most important point for us as we look to get ready.
One of those players that Keane will need to get to know is new Brazilian forward Samuel who started alongside the Galaxy captain in the victory. During their 45 minute shift together, the pair showed flashes of forming a promising partnership as their collective movement created multiple chances against the Bruins.
Although it was clear in the scrimmage that Keane’s fitness is still a work in progress, the Irishman was pleased with his first performance of the year.
“I feel very happy considering that it was my first real game in three months. There were some good touches, some good movements, and I scored,” said Keane.” The first 35 minutes I felt very good and sharp, but the last 10 minutes, I was just going through the motions a little bit, which is to be expected.”
And after 45 minutes alongside Samuel, Keane could not help but offer a glowing review for his new Brazilian strike partner.
“He’s strong, he’s very good at getting behind people,” he said. “Certainly, in the three weeks that he’s been here, he looks a lot stronger already. I have a good feel for what he likes, his movements and where he likes to go.”
LA returns to the field on Saturday for the inaugural “White vs. Blue” match against LA Galaxy II at StubHub Center, and when the Galaxy face their USL PRO affiliate, expect to see the Irishman on the pitch.
“I’m only going to get stronger as we play more games,” said Keane. “I felt very good and I’m just looking forward to Saturday now.”