A word of warning to defenders around MLS: Robbie Keane is officially warmed up.
Saturday night at the Stub Hub Center, the Vancouver Whitecaps found out firsthand, as the Irishman’s goal in the 47th minute lifted the LA Galaxy over the visitors 1-0.
Fresh off a 3-0 demolition of rivals Chivas USA, in which Keane also scored, the Galaxy looked to string together back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Just eight minutes into the match, it was none other than Keane nearly getting the team off to a fantastic start.
Drifting wide left just outside the Vancouver area, Keane worked a near perfect one-two combination with midfielder Baggio Husidic leading to Keane’s blistering strike being narrowly saved by the feet of Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted.
Despite the good passage of play early, Keane and the Galaxy found much of the first half frustrating. The Whitecaps swarmed high up the pitch for the full 45 minutes of the half, forcing LA to get rid of the ball quickly at every turn.
And the night might have gone much different had Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo not made a miraculous save on Kekuta Manneh’s breakaway opportunity just shy of the stroke of halftime.
“That was a big save,” said Galaxy Head Coach Bruce Arena of Penedo after the match. “He wasn’t tested a whole lot tonight but that save in the first half was key.”
Having narrowly escaped to end the first half, LA put Vancouver back on its heels immediately to start the second.
Galaxy midfielder Juninho picked out Stefan Ishizaki to the right of the Whitecaps penalty area less than two minutes into the half.
Ishizaki’s smart touch around Whitecaps defender Jay DeMerit gave the midfielder the opportunity to sneak a peak towards the Vancouver goal. Spotting the raised arm of Keane, the Swede bent an inch perfect cross around the Whitecaps defense, keeping Ousted rooted to his line and allowing Keane to cushion home the game’s only goal into an open net.
“When you give him the ball there, he’s going to score,” said Ishizaki of Keane’s ability to make scoring goals look easy.
The goal was Keane’s third of the season.
Since missing a penalty shot late in the Galaxy’s opener against Real Salt Lake, a game hasn’t gone by where Keane’s not on the scoresheet.
“It’s just one of those things, you know. If anyone else could have found that ball, I’m not too sure,” said Keane of his goal. “Stefan’s was a tremendous ball and I just knew that with someone like him there’s a great chance he’s going to find me.”
Following the loss, Vancouver won’t have to wait long for a chance at redemption. The Galaxy travel north of the border to face the Whitecaps next week.
But the Whitecaps will have to find a way to slow down Keane, if they hope to have a chance.
So far this season, not many teams have.