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Sunday, August 21, 2011
GALAXY: A perfect start for Keane

By Scott French

CARSON -- Robbie Keane's debut with the Galaxy couldn't have gone much better, he surmised when it was over: He started, got in a good 70 minutes. Oh, and scored a goal, the only one L.A. needed to turn aside a game San Jose Earthquakes side Saturday night at Home Depot Center.


The Irish striker, who provided uncommon energy up front as the Galaxy dictated play for the first half-hour, tallied from a David Beckham free kick in the 13th minute, becoming the 18th Galaxy player to score on his debut.

Mike Magee added another in the 90th minute as the Galaxy (14-3-9) opened a six-point lead in the Supporters' Shield and Western Conference standings, with Seattle moving into second place after toppling FC Dallas, which dropped to third.

“It couldn't have gone better for me,” said Keane, who arrived Thursday and trained just once with his new teammates after a transfer last weekend from English Premier League club Tottenham. “It's always nice to score a goal, but the most important thing is the team and three points. I'm certain there's a lot more to come for the team and, certainly, meself.”

Keane received enthusiastic receptions from a sellout crowd before the game and when he was pulled off in the 72nd minute. Head coach Bruce Arena didn't hesitate to throw his new star into the lineup, even with little more than an hour of preparation with his new club.

“We want him on the field. We brought him here to play,” Arena said. “I wanted to get him on as long as possible. We certainly realized at halftime we'd have to make a change for him at some point. I wanted to get him as many minutes as I could, and I hope I didn't give him too many minutes.”

Keane didn't think so.

“I didn't run out of gas. Bruce just took me off,” he said. “I wanted to stay on. It was obviously the right decision, with the travel, but I felt good, considering I've only trained once with the lads. ...

“It's very difficult to get to know players in one training session and one game. As the games will go on, three or four more games, I'll get to know the players even better, and that will give meself and the players and better understanding, and hopefully that will make us a better team.”

He said it was nice to score in his first match with the club, but he's not surprised to do so.

“That's what I know,” he said. “That's what I do best.”

A quick look at the Galaxy's victory:

BEST PLAYER: We could haggle here or there, but let's go with the man of the night. The goal was fine, even if San Jose's defensive deficiencies helped it all come together, but Keane offered so much energy in the first 30 minutes and might have had another couple of goals with better luck and better judgment from the linesman.

He was a menace for the Earthquakes' backline, always pushing the restraining line, always angling to get behind, and his finest moments, the goal aside, were chances that San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch did well to stop -- on plays whistled offside. On one of them, a fierce blast in the 13th minute, linesman Colin Arblaster blew it, flagging Keane although San Jose played the ball to him, inadvertently.

Arena's judgment: “He's a terrific player, he's got a great soccer mind, he's creative in and around the penalty area, and he can score goals.”

BEST GOAL: Magee's at the end of the game was nice, a nifty redirect from Sean Franklin's feed after Landon Donovan spread the ball to the right flank after Magee's first shot was blocked at the top of the box.

But it's Keane's everyone will be talking about, for good reason. It came off a free kick in midfield, with Beckham lofting the ball toward the box, and toward the Irishman. San Jose defender Jason Hernandez whiffed on it as it bounced past, and Keane collected it, then feinted Busch out of the play and deposited the ball into an empty net.

“I knew he was going to be running, and I know where to put it,” Beckham said. “Sometimes they come off, and sometimes they don't.”

Keane credited Beckham for “quick thinking, and I was ready for it,” but Donovan praised Keane for making it “look easy, [and] it's not an easy play. He made Jon Busch look foolish.”

BIGGEST STRUGGLE: The Galaxy was good the first half-hour, not so much the last hour. Their passing faded, they tired, and there was little electricity to their game in the second half.

It showed up in the stats. L.A. was outshot, 15-10, and put only two shots on target -- the two goals. San Jose might have won had goalkeeper Josh Saunders not made big saves on Joey Gjertsen in the 34th minute and rookie Rafael Baca in the 41st.

Let's also look at the red card in the match. You can't blame referee Andrew Chapin for pulling the card, but it was unfortunate for Stephen Beitashour.

The Earthquakes right back was sent off in the 81st minute for clumsily cleating Donovan in the left knee. He was taking the ball up the wing, and Donovan awkwardly tried to slide-tackle him, knocking the ball away, then sprawling in front of the defender.

Not much Beitashour could do. Off-balance, he tried to keep his feet, then tried to leap over Donovan. He was a little out of control, and his right foot hit Donovan on the knee, then tumbled to the ground.

Donovan was limping immediately afterward, but he recovered quickly and played the telling pass that led to Magee's goal nine minutes later.

WORTH NOTING: Frankie Hejduk, back from an ankle injury, was a surprise starter at right back, just his second appearance in a league game this season -- and first since he started in a 2-1 win April 17 at Chicago. ... Lawndale's Baca (Amino Leadership HS/Loyola Marymount) made his second start for San Jose, his first in central midfield. ... There were 37 fouls, 21 by the Galaxy. ... Keane's goal led to a surge in Internet activity at HDC and slowed the system to a crawl.

FINAL JUDGMENT: Having Keane in L.A., and playing so well in his debut was “great,” Beckham said. “It's exciting for the club, it's exciting for the fans, exciting for the league, as well. It's showing the league is definitely growing, it's definitely attracting big names. ... That's what we want to do. That's the aim of this league, the aim of this franchise and the aim of soccer in the U.S. It's still at the start of, hopefully, a healthy future. It's looking good at the moment, to attract a player like Robbie [in his prime] is a big thing.”

NEXT: Thuesday in CONCACAF Champions League vs. Alajuelense (Costa Rica) at Home Depot Center, 7 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel). Next league game: Sunday, Aug. 28, at New York, 4 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)

Home Depot Center (Carson)
Galaxy 2, San Jose Earthquakes 0

LA -- Robbie Keane (David Beckham) 21
LA -- Mike Magee (Sean Franklin, Landon Donovan) 90

Galaxy: Josh Saunders; Frankie Hejduk, Omar Gonzalez, Gregg Berhalter, Todd Dunivant; Sean Franklin (Dan Keat, 91+), David Beckham, Juninho, Landon Donovan; Adam Cristman (Miguel Lopez, 79), Robbie Keane (Mike Magee, 72). Unused subs: Chris Birchall, A.J. DeLaGarza, Brian Perk, Michael Stephens.

San Jose Earthquakes: Jon Busch; Steven Beitashour, Jason Hernandez, Bobby Burling, Justin Morrow; Joey Gjertsen (Ellis McLoughlin, 86), Ramiro Corrales, Rafael Baca, Bobby Convey; Chris Wondolowski (Simon Dawkins, 71), Khari Stephenson (Edmundo Zura, 71)

Yellow cards: Baca 54, Hejduk 68. Red card: Beitashour 81.

Referee: Andrew Chapin. Att.: 27,000.