Houston's mission to dim Galaxy's brightest star
Robbie Keane loves LA – and LA loves him – as he goes for his second MLS title, writes EMMET MALONE, Soccer Correspondent
It’s two years now since Robbie Keane’s relationship with Harry Redknapp is said to have hit rock bottom. Tottenham were playing away and, so the story goes, the Dubliner showed up at the team bus only to discover he wasn’t even in the match-day squad.
Keane was apparently furious and Redknapp thoroughly embarrassed. The manager hadn’t meant to treat the striker with such disrespect; he had simply forgotten to make sure he was informed he was not required. That in itself must have seemed disrespectful enough to the Irishman.
The contrast in Keane’s standing stateside in the run up to this evening’s MLS Cup final could hardly be any more stark. LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena was asked on Thursday what he thought of the 32-year-old and his reply could hardly have been any more gushing.
“He’s a real personality,” said Arena, the 61-year-old New Yorker, who will be aiming to secure his forth title as manager when LA take on Houston Dynamo at Galaxy’s Home Depot Center at 9.30pm Irish time (live on ESPN from 9.45pm).
“He’s bought into the concept of MLS, of being in LA and being with the Galaxy and he’s really, in his unique way, an outstanding leader. The guys enjoy having him around. He’s adorable, he’s tough, he’s talented, he’s witty.
“He’s a lot of good things and in his second year in the league now he’s emerged as arguably not just one of the best players in the league but a fabulous personality and a good person to have around every day.”
After the nightmare that Tottenham became and the mishap that was Liverpool, it must be comforting for Keane to know he is really wanted again.
Arena’s affection for the Irishman is scarcely surprising, though. The build up to tonight’s game has been overshadowed to a large extent by the fact it will be David Beckham’s last for the club after six years in LA.
The Englishman has pocketed a lot of money during his time in America but it is widely acknowledged he has done a good deal to raise the profile not only of his club but also of the league.
On the pitch, his contribution has at times been limited by injuries, but he had a good 2011 when he played a key role in helping Galaxy to the title, ultimately secured in a final against tonight’s opposition through a goal scored by Landon Donovan, but set up by the team’s two multi-million dollar imports, Beckham and Keane.
This year, however, Keane’s contribution has probably been greater, with the Dubliner’s return from Euro 2012 coinciding with a dramatic turnaround in the team’s fortunes. Despite missing a large chunk of the season, Keane goes into tonight’s game as the league’s fourth top scorer, and having earned his place in the “Best of” team announced a few days ago.
With Donovan, a player with whom Keane has struck up a rewarding partnership, also rumoured to be considering a change, things might be a little more difficult next year but for the moment it is not hard to see why the former Wolves and Leeds United striker says he is enjoying himself.