By Paul Kennedy
With three MLS titles in five seasons with the LA Galaxy and a scoring rate that seems to get better each
year -- 20 goals in 24 games in 2015 to give him 73 goals in 108 MLS games -- Robbie Keane
has had the best career of any big international star that has entered MLS since it implemented the
Designated Player rule in 2007.
But his influence off the field has been just as important for the Galaxy.
“He should be player-manager," Galaxy coach Bruce
said of Keane at MLS Cup 2014. “It’s very rare that an international player can step into this league, be adjusted instantly and not explain to us how we’re supposed to do
things. We’ve never heard one comment about this is how they do it at Liverpool or Tottenham.”
If there are any doubts about the commitment of the Galaxy's impending signings
-- Ashley Cole
, Jelle Van Damme
and Nigel de Jong
are the names often mentioned -- Keane said he and Steven Gerrard
are ready to show them how they do it at the Galaxy.
Cole and de Jong might not be popular choices -- Cole previously said he wouldn't join the Galaxy because he wasn't ready to lay on the beach and de Jong has a reputation for thuggery -- but
Keane says Arena -- whom he terms the "Alex Ferguson
of America" -- knows what he's doing.
“No manager signs a player just for the sake of signing him," he said at
the recent MLS Media Day. "If they sign him, they find out a little bit of his history. If I was a manager, I’d find out what he’s like as a person, what he’s like in the dressing
room. That’s why [Arena] has been so successful. We know all of this stuff before we sign these players. I know the players that he signed, if they’re the players mentioned, because
I’ve played against them. I know them from outside of football and what kind of characters they are. That certainly won’t be a problem if those are the players.”
completed his UEFA A coaching license earlier in January, while Gerrard has his UEFA B license and hopes to complete his A license this season.
"For us now as a team," Keane said,
"it’s important to get the right players in that are going to fit the Galaxy, fit the dressing room and, most importantly, do a job on the field.”
Gerrard agrees with Keane's
“If we get the names that we’re being linked with, we’ll be stronger all the way from goalkeeper to center forward, which makes the squad become
stronger,” he said. “Players move out of the 11 for the new signings, so the squad and bench become stronger, which gives you a better chance to succeed. For me, we’ll be an awful
lot stronger if we get the names we’ve been linked with because they’re good footballers and they’ll improve us defensively, and that’s where we went wrong last year.”
If Van Damme and de Jong are signed, they will step in for popular players, Omar Gonzalez
, both members of the 2011, 2012 and 2014 championship teams, who were
transferred to clubs in Mexico during the offseason.
Gerrard was a one-club player in England -- 27 seasons with Liverpool, which he joined at the age of 9 -- but Keane knows what it's
all about to move, having played for nine different clubs in Europe.
“When you play the game for 20 years, I’ve seen this on every team I’ve played with, this same
situation," he said. "People come and go. It’s part of the game. People get different offers, better offers. People go, don’t want to go, or the club wants to get rid of them. There are so
many different scenarios that go on in this situation. Two guys are gone. They’ve been great servants to the LA Galaxy and all we can do is wish them well going forward."
changes were inevitable after the late-season slump that saw the Galaxy win only one of its last seven regular-season games and exit the playoffs in the play-in game.
“I think we
needed a shakeup,” Keane said. “If you look at every team, regardless of how good you are, every team gets new faces in to freshen things up and to have a different approach maybe in
certain games. If we get the players in that you’re talking about and maybe a couple of more, then we’ll be fine. It will make us a really, really solid group."