Robert Mora /

Robbie Keane stars as Galaxy advance to MLS Cup

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Robbie Keane leaves today for Dublin, Ireland, where he will meet up with the Irish national team as it prepares for a crucial 2012 European Championship playoff home-and-home series with Estonia.

To say he is looking forward to it is putting it mildly.

“We haven’t qualified for the European Championships for the last 20 years or so. It’s going to be a big occasion,” he said. “Seeing everyone back home, I know everyone’s looking forward to it.

“Of course I’m just happy to be back fit and I look forward to the games.”

Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena will agree wholeheartedly after watching the 31-year-old perform brilliantly in Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Championship. The win clinched the Galaxy a spot in MLS Cup 2011 against the Houston Dynamo on Nov. 20 at The Home Depot Center.

Keane, just recovered from a strained left adductor that sidelined him for almost a month, scored one goal and realistically could have had at least two more as a crowd of 23,437 roared its approval.

Keane hit the goal post on one first-half attempt – he’s hit the post in all three playoff games, in fact – and was credited with a game-high five shots as he almost singlehandedly terrorized the 2009 MLS Cup champions.

Match Highlights
Get Microsoft Silverlight

“Freakish” was the term the Galaxy’s Mike Magee, who scored the game’s eventual game-winning goal in the 58th minute, used to describe Keane’s play on Sunday. “He was amazing.”

It marked quite a turn of events for the Irish international, who suffered the injury on Oct. 7 in Andorra in a Euro 2012 qualifier and admitted he was concerned he might not be able to return this season. Keane, however, credited the Galaxy’s medical staff with his quick recovery, and what originally was thought be an absence of at least a month turned into about three and a half weeks.

“When it first happened they said four to six weeks and that really would have put me out,” Keane said “I’m very happy. Full credit to (head athletic trainer) Armando (Rivas) and all the physios who worked really hard to get me fit.

“It’s always nice to get back early, and I managed to do that.”

Postgame Interview: Keane

Keane said he was thankful he could contribute, but he also was satisfied to see the Galaxy earn a chance to play for the championship. It will mark the Galaxy’s MLS-record seventh appearance in the final.

“Overall, we have to be happy,” he said. “It’s been a tough week for me personally, three games in a week after being out 3 and a half weeks. They’ve been tough games, but we managed to get through.

“And now we look forward to the final.”

If Keane did have any regrets Sunday, it was a misplayed breakaway during extra time in the second half.

“The last one I had jelly legs,” he said with a grin. “At the end of 20 sprints in about 40 minutes. But of course as a striker you always want to score as many goals as you can.

“The most important thing is to win. I’m more than happy with that.”