- Robbie Keane's return should prove to be more meaningful to the LA Galaxy than Landon Donovan's, while Jozy Altidore keeps firing on all cylinders for surging Toronto FC.
This week, the entire outlook for the end of the MLS season may have changed with the return of a single player. This Los Angeles Galaxy forward is a legend at his club, can be an instrumental player in the attack, and will provide Bruce Arena’s side with some much-needed firepower during the final games of the regular season and into the playoffs. At this point, the main question is: when will he get up to game fitness?
The player, of course, is Robbie Keane.
Sure, Landon Donovan’s surprise return to the Galaxy is huge news, and rightfully so. SI's Grant Wahl and Brian Straus have covered what that could mean for Donovan and his club here and here. However, Donovan’s substitute appearance against Orlando City on Sunday can best be described as “existent.” He was there, he ran around, had a few touches on the ball, and generally looked like a professional soccer player. That’s no small feat, and it should make for compelling viewing to see what Donovan can do in future games with a few more training sessions under his belt.
But if you’re looking for an impact sub for the Galaxy that could have more instant ramifications for the Galaxy’s season, look no further than Keane. The Irishman scored his first goal since July in his 30-minute appearance and generally looked like the kind of scoring threat the Galaxy will need, especially with Gyasi Zardes’s foot injury taking him out of the lineup for a significant portion of time.
It is a well-timed return for Keane, whose troubled season (by his lofty standards) has in many ways mirrored the Galaxy’s struggles with injuries and building a consistent run of results. Keane has dealt with calf, shoulder and knee issues in this campaign, but when he’s played, he’s been quite good, scoring eight goals and adding two assists in 14 games this year. Problem is, the aforementioned injuries and international duty have meant that he hasn’t played more than six games in a row for his team all season.
In the grand scheme of things, the Galaxy have been fine in his absence (as they should be with their abundant talent aside from Keane). LA currently sits second in the West, four points off league-leading FC Dallas. The Galaxy have the fewest losses in the league, but also the most draws. It is here that Keane’s absence has truly been felt. With Keane making an appearance this season, the Galaxy is 8-2-4. Without him, the team is 3-2-10. How many more of those draws would have been wins with one of MLS’s greatest-ever finishers on the field? I’d wager at least one or two, just enough to put LA even closer to, or even past, Dallas in the standings.
So, then, the return of Keane isn’t so much about making a bad team good, but rather about making an already-good team that much better. The Galaxy have flown under the radar this season by sheer virtue of their non-domination of the league most thought would be fodder for an all-time best lineup on paper. If Keane can stay healthy, the Galaxy may come to see that Donovan was the second-most important sub that Bruce Arena made this week.
Offensive player of the week: Giovani Dos Santos, Los Angeles Galaxy
The headlines this week are all about Donovan, and understandably so. But let it be known that Giovani Dos Santos had about as impressive a week as a forward can have. Dos Santos had two goals and an assist in Wednesday’s 3-3 draw with RSL, then followed that up with a two-goal, two-assist performance in his team’s 4-2 domination of Orlando City on Sunday.
Dos Santos said after Sunday’s win that he feels he’s playing better than he ever has in his career before. It’s hard to argue against that.
Defensive player of the week: Axel Sjoberg, Colorado Rapids
Even with Mauro Diaz and Michael Barrios starting on the bench, holding a tremendously deep FC Dallas attacking unit scoreless is no small accomplishment for the Rapids. Sjoberg and central defensive partner Jared Watts were both critical in their own ways, but Sjoberg stood out thanks to his eternally calm demeanor under pressure. Dominique Badji may have gotten the winning goal for Colorado, but Sjoberg and Watts’ contributions were no less important.