Rookie midfielder Dan Keat finally started working with the ball this week, his first action since fracturing his heel during Major League Soccer's combine nearly two months ago.
The Dartmouth-educated New Zealander is a two-way central midfielder taken with the third overall selection in the Jan. 18 supplemental draft -- basically, the start of the fourth round.
A lot of players taken before Keat have been cut from rosters around the league, but Bruce Arena's plan from day one has been to keep his five draft picks. The Galaxy coach has the sharpest eye in American soccer for talent and for team-building, and he only selected players he wanted on his roster.
Keat was one of them, and for that he's thankful, and with reason. His injury might have cost him a chance elsewhere in the league, but he's already signed his L.A. contract and is looking forward to getting onto the field.
“I'm ready to go,” he said. “I've been itching to play for a long time.”
Here are five questions with Keat:
You've not been on the field; how has the team been treating you?
They've had a lot of confidence and faith to stick with me through this time, and they've said just be patient and keep working hard, and I hope it will work out. That's all I can really do.
You know, when you're injured, you've got to almost work harder than if you're training, to make sure you do all the right things and look after your body and make sure that you're ready when you get out on the field. … It's a little tough, coming in and being in the training room a lot. It's not where you want to be, being a rookie and missing out on all the hard work, but all I can do is go in and show that I'm working hard, and the guys, I think, can see that.
How did you end up at Dartmouth?
They had an assistant coach from New Zealand, and I grew up with Craig Henderson, who was a year ahead of me [at Dartmouth]. … It all stems from the [Notre Dame men's coach and former New Zealand national team boss] Bobby Clarke connection back to New Zealand. At a basic level, all New Zealanders stem from that, so I have to thank him and a lot of people for where I am now.
I knew some guys from my club that [went to college in the U.S.] -- Mike Wilson went to Stanford, and, obviously, there are players doing well, like Ryan Nelsen and Simon Elliott, who came through the system and went on to have great careers. I was never going to stay in New Zealand. I think I decided when I was about 15 I was going to go to Europe or end up in the States. So [coming to America] was a very real option and something that worked out wonderfully for me.
Simon Elliott's just down the hall, in the Chivas locker room.
Andy [Boyens], too. People keep joking around: “There's too many Kiwis around the Home Depot Center,” but it suits us great.
I know Simon pretty well, and he's been great for me, someone to kind of bounce my thoughts off and get advice on everything from leaving college to the combine, the draft, leaving to L.A. I've been in touch with him pretty constantly over the last couple of years, and he's been a fantastic source of information for me.
You had to enjoy watching him and your fellow Kiwis go unbeaten at the World Cup
Fantastic. Fantastic for me, for all of New Zealand football, because they put us on the map, increased the popularity [of soccer] at home, in a rugby-mad country, and I know a lot of guys on the team, so it was great for me to see these guys doing well and prove New Zealand can hang with the big boys on the world stage.
What's your best position?
It's hard to say. I play centrally, generally, in the midfield. I bring a lot of energy and workrate, so I can go both ways, so it all depends on what formation and how Bruce wants to use me. I'm happy to play anywhere, to be honest. Anywhere on the field and I'll be happy.
KINGS FOR A NIGHT: The Galaxy's countdown to its opener next Tuesday night in Seattle started Monday at Staples Center, where nine players and a few team officials watched the NHL's Kings lose in overtime to the Dallas Stars. The Kings, of course, are the Galaxy's big brother: Both are owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group.
Defenders Todd Dunivant (a Colorado Avalanche fan), Omar Gonzalez (partial to the Stars) and Sean Franklin (a Kings fan from Palmdale) and forward Mike Magee (still celebrating the Chicago Blackhawks' Stanley Cup triumph) participated in the pregame ceremonial puck-drop. Also on hand: Keat, Landon Donovan, defender A.J. DeLaGarza, midfielder Bryan Jordan and forward Chad Barrett.
Magee, who's from Chicago's suburbs, admitted he “kind of jumped on the [Blackhawks] bandwagon” but used to go to games with an uncle. DeLaGarza, from Maryland, prefers the Washington Capitals. Barrett likes the Zamboni. “They cover the whole [ice],” he said. “It's funny.”
Donovan has closer connections to the sport.
“My dad and I would watch Kings games all the time [when I was] growing up,” he said. “And I'm half-Canadian. It's in my blood. I have no choice.”
Donovan played roller hockey growing up and last year joined his father and some of his buddies from an over-40 league on “a real rink in Nashville. It was fun. I loved it.”
WORTH NOTING: The Galaxy plays its final preseason match, a closed-door clash, this morning against UCLA at Home Depot Center. … Former Galaxy captain Peter Vagenas (Pasadena/St. Francis HS and UCLA) is in camp with the club, but he says he's not on trial, just training while awaiting an anticipated contract offer. Vagenas, who played last year with Seattle, was traded in November to Colorado and became a free agent after going through the league's re-entry process, wouldn't say where he's headed, only that it was “a secret.”