Contrary to the popular saying, there are times when statistics do not lie. Robbie Keane can vouch for that. Bouncing back from Republic of Ireland’s unhappy showing at UEFA EURO 2012 in June, the former Tottenham Hotspur forward has been in scintillating form in Major League Soccer, scoring 18 goals and serving up seven assists for Los Angeles Galaxy and giving opposing defences a very hard time in the process.
“He really made us suffer,” Seattle Sounders right-back Adam Johansson told FIFA.com following their 3-0 defeat in Los Angeles in Sunday’s first leg of the Western Conference final.
Keane got his name on the score-sheet twice against the Sounders, just as he had done four days earlier in the second leg of the Galaxy’s Western Conference semi-final against San Jose Earthquakes, helping his side overturn a 1-0 deficit away from home to win 3-2 on aggregate.
“We knew what he was capable of, especially on the counter,” added Johansson. “He’s quick and he uses his instinct and intelligence when it comes to reading the game. It’s no surprise to see him playing like this because he’s got such great vision. He always knows where his team-mates and opposing defenders are.”
The irrepressible Irishman has struck four of his side’s six goals in their last two games and also helped set up their second against Seattle, playing a long pinpoint pass that allowed Sean Franklin to tee up Mike Magee.
“He’s a real leader for the team,” said an appreciative Magee. “From the moment the referee blows his whistle he gives 200 per cent.”
Bruce Arena’s side have dominated proceedings in MLS ever since their attacking talisman returned from Poland and Ukraine, finding their stride at just the right time, much to the coach’s delight: “We’ve been the best team in the league since then, and I’m delighted the rest haven’t picked up on that yet.”
Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant told FIFA.com: “Just like the team, Robbie’s been playing his best football since the summer. We’re on a much sounder footing now and he’s making the most of that to show what a great player he is. He’s got so much quality that if his opponents give him half a chance, he’ll punish them straightaway. He’s playing so well at the moment, but if you ask me that’s just his usual standard.”
The fact remains, however, that Keane has never been in such prolific form. The most productive of his eight seasons in the English Premier League was 2007/08, when he racked up 15 goals. From the end of his successful loan spell with Celtic in 2010, where he struck 12 goals in 16 matches, Keane had netted just eight league goals for Spurs, West Ham United, the Galaxy and Aston Villa combined.
Yet whatever the reason for his return to form, the man himself is thinking about nothing but the team. “It was important to keep the momentum going after the San Jose game,” the 32-year-old said after his demolition job on the Sounders. “We didn’t take as many chances as we should have against Seattle, but we did put three away, which is not something everyone can do.”
More at ease in front of goal than discussing his many attributes, Keane is content to let Arena do his talking for him and to repay whatever compliments come his way with goals.
“He’s been the best player in the league since he came back from the EUROs,” commented the former USA coach. “He’s settled in really well in MLS and he’s scored some vital goals. He’s a real competitor too, a remarkable player and a very important member of the team. Along with David Beckham and Landon Donovan, he’s a role model for our younger players.”