You watch Robbie Keane on the soccer field and you’re not going to find a more intense competitor.
His goading of teammates, his pleading to referees, his eagerness to get in the face of opponents rubs more than a few the wrong way.
He must have been itching to start the season last week because the Galaxy’s 2-0 win over Chicago, Keane was in midseason form. It culminated in his celebration after scoring the second goal and the MLS lip-readers were on the spot to fine him for “unprofessional conduct.”
Keane explained it all Thursday after practice:
“Ah, nothing. Passion. I’m a passionate guy,” Keane said. “I like to win all the time.”
Earlier in the game, he appeared to upbraid teammate Stefan Ishizaki for a build-up gone awry.
“If you don’t play with passion, which I’ve always done since I’ve been here, that’s the way I play,” Keane said. “That’s the way I get the best out of myself and get the best out of players.
“One million percent it wasn’t (directed) at the fans. You can’t just speculate if you don’t know. It’s not a big deal. I’m expecting a fine. It’s no problem.”
It’s what helped drive Keane to score 19 goals, dish out 14 assists and win the MLS MVP award in 2014. Oh, and help his club capture its third MLS Cup in four years.
“Passion,” Keane said. “I want to win all the time. I want to be better. I do a lot of things to get people going in a different way. It’s my way of doing things. I do it on the training field, I do it on the field. I’ll always continue to do it. There’s other things you won’t see that I do all the time. Sometimes it’s to get people going, to get a reaction from other people. It’s about caring about what you do.
“If it’s going to make us a better team, than the job’s done.”
The Galaxy opened their exhibition season with a 2-0 victory over Ventura County Fusion on Wednesday at StubHub Center. Reigning MLS MVP Robbie Keane scored in the first half and Edson Buddle scored in the second half for the Galaxy.
Buddle is still not under contract, but pairing with Keane for a goal won’t hurt his cause.
Coach Bruce Arena used a number of younger players mixed in with the regulars. Forward Charlie Rugg, who played all of last year with the Galaxy II, played a midfield wing position.
The Galaxy are also taking a long look at undrafted free agent Ramon Martin Del Campo, a central defender who shined at UC Davis, took part in the MLS combine but was not selected.
“It was motivating,” Del Campo said of not being drafted. “Approaching it I had my hopes up, obviously it didn’t work out. It’s fine. That’s life and you’ve got to face adversity. A successful career is impossible without minor setbacks so I just saw it was motivation to get back out there to get back training harder and we’ll see what the future takes.”
Del Campo said he was sick right before the combine but took the risk of going through the tryouts anyway.
“I had strep throat going in,” he said. “I didn’t want to tell anybody because I wanted to prove to coaches that I was stronger than it, that tiny things won’t hold me back. Obviously it was a very difficult thing.
“I don’t regret anything. I just see it as a learning lesson. There’s no point in regretting, it doesn’t make me a better player, doesn’t help my status.”
Del Campo was born in Mexico but grew up in Chula Vista (Bonita Vista High) and is a U.S. citizen.
Bruce Arena is already in the National Soccer Hall of Fame but he was taken aback when U.S. Soccer announced him as the 2014 Werner Fricker Builder Award winner.
It’s the highest honor the U.S. Federation bestows on individuals in the sport.
“It’s the greatest honor I’ve ever received,” Arena said after training camp opened on Friday.
Will MLS exercise the option it has on forward Erick “Cubo” Torres to keep him in MLS? Torres, of course, was the leading scorer for the now-disbanded Chivas USA but clearly will have opportunities to continue his career in Mexico or elsewhere.
“It’s a great question. Let’s say we’d like to,” Garber said. “We haven’t been able to make that decision yet. We think Cubo’s been a great player in our league and certainly he deserves to be in a position where he can thrive in a new team setting from one that he was in.
“We’re going to go through that process as you know that we extracted him from the way we went about a process for the other players that were on Chivas USA. A decision hasn’t been made yet but I’ll tell you we’d love to have him continue with the league.”
The other now-former Chivas players will be placed in a dispersal draft for the rest of the league to choose from next week.
Yes, expansion arrives next year with two more teams. With the league then at 20 teams (with plans to be at 24 before the end of the decade), the playoff format could be expanded to 12 teams instead of 10. The league’s ownership will decide on that.
Currently, of the five playoff teams in each conference, the top three teams in each bracket don’t play in a first-round game. In the proposed format, only the top two in each conference would be off for the first round.
And, by the way, the weighted away goal in the home-and-home playoff series will be continue to be implemented.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber gave his state of the league address today via roundtable and the biggest news that was announced was the MLS Best XI.
Defender Omar Gonzalez, midfielder Landon Donovan and forward Robbie Keane of the Galaxy were named to the squad. You can’t argue with the selections of the team’s three designated players unless the cynics point out that A.J. DeLaGarza was named the Galaxy’s defender of the year ahead of his longtime teammate.
For Donovan, it was his seventh selection to the team to establish an MLS record.
Keane is also up for the league MVP award, which will be announced in downtown L.A. on Wednesday. With 19 goals and 14 assists this season and earned his third consecutive Best XI honor.
Landon Donovan was the last Galaxy player off CenturyLink Field after the Galaxy eliminated rival Seattle in the MLS Western Conference finals to reach the MLS Cup.
He was, per custom, trailed by a number of media. But before he ducked into the tunnel to head to the locker room and celebrate with teammates, he took some time to soak in the admiration from fans. Even Sounders fans who understood this was the last time they would see him play in their stadium. Actually, it seemed like Donovan was taking it in far more than the fans were.
In an apparently impromptu gesture, he took the shirt off his back and gave it to a fan and didn’t hesitate to sign autographs.
He wasn’t done and headed toward another group to sign autographs and shake hands.
Oh, and endure the wrath of a different kind of fan.
Warning. Adult language here. Or as they say, NSFW.
Donovan will play his last game on Sunday at StubHub Center when the Galaxy take on New England for the MLS Cup title.
Just a guess, but that’s a part of the game he might not miss so much.
“I can’t believe it. Actually, I can believe it.”
His career comes down to one game, next Sunday’s MLS Cup against New England at StubHub Center. Then on to retirement.
Donovan will be trying to win his sixth MLS Cup, the Galaxy will be trying to capture their fifth, which would set a league record.
In the latter part of the season, the Galaxy turned to Stefan Ishizaki more and more to take the Galaxy’s free kicks and corner kicks.
For the most part, the midfielder had been effective. But when the Galaxy earned a corner kick early in the second half Sunday in Seattle, captain Robbie Keane told Landon Donovan to return to his role as the team’s corner kick man.
“Stefan was struggling with it,” Donovan said. “He had some really good free kicks but he was struggling with his service from the corner. I just wanted to try to put it in a good position and we’ve been waiting for Juni all year to get one of those good strikes on target in a good spot and he made a great shot and a great goal.”
Donovan’s corner kick was headed in the direction of a natural target, the 6-foot-5 Omar Gonzalez, but Gonzalez wasn’t in position to head the ball. Instead, he clipped it to Juninho and the Brazilian midfielder sent a low shot just inside left post for the goal that sends the Galaxy into next Sunday’s MLS Cup at home against New England.
It was the first goal for Juninho since Sept. 21, 2013.
A clear day in Seattle greeted the Galaxy, who will face the Sounders this evening with a trip to the MLS Cup on the line. Game time temperature is forecast at 34 degrees, dropping to 32 about the time the game ends. All the snow that was on the field for the Galaxy’s practice Saturday has miraculously disappeared.
Also on the line? For the second time in three weeks, Landon Donovan faces the prospect of playing his last game before retirement.
The lineups will be out soon. It remains to be seen if the Galaxy’s Leonardo, Marcelo Sarvas or A.J. DeLaGarza will be involved. From Seattle’s standpoint, the word is Lamar Neagle and Osvaldo Alonso will return to the Sounders lineup after missing Game 1 last week.
Gyasi Zardes hasn’t scored a goal for the Galaxy since recording his 16th of the regular season on Sept. 28. That covers a span of seven games, including the club’s three postseason outings.
He may be only 23 years old, but he refuses to show any signs of impatience. Not with the Galaxy one game away from playing in the MLS Cup.
“Yeah, just because I’m not scoring doesn’t mean anything,” Zardes said. “It’s a team effort and I feel like I’m making runs to allow other players to be open. I’m just trying to be a help to the team and the most important thing is to win games. It’s OK that I’m not scoring if we’re winning.”
The Galaxy hold a 1-0 lead over Seattle heading into Sunday’s second leg of the Western Conference finals in Seattle. Even without a goal, Zardes has adopted the Robbie Keane striker rule: Never look back and enjoy the moment.
“Oh yeah. Words cannot describe it for myself,” he said of his first playoff run. “This is my first time going this far, second year going pro, so I’m enjoying the moment and trying to work extremely hard.
“I brush it off. I can’t dwell on that. It’s a team and you’ve got to look toward the future. You can’t sit back and say ‘Oh, I didn’t score.’ Just keep working on the field like I’ve been doing and the results will come. If they don’t hey, it’s OK, our team is winning.”