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Robbie Keane Scores in MLS Debut as LA Galaxy Beat Earthquakes

Jonathan Kendrick |
August 21, 2011 | 1:19 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Robbie Keane signed a two-year deal with the Galaxy (Jonathan Kendrick)
Robbie Keane signed a two-year deal with the Galaxy (Jonathan Kendrick)
With three-leaf clovers painted on the grass berm overlooking the Home Depot Center's north goal and the Angel City Brigade supporters section waving green welcome banners, the scene was set for Irishman Robbie Keane's debut with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The man of the hour didn’t disappoint.

Keane scored just 21 minutes into his debut in Major League Soccer and Mike Magee added a second in the 90th minute as the Galaxy defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 27,000 in Carson, Calif.

"It was fantastic, the reception [the fans] gave me," said the 31-year-old Keane, Ireland's all-time leading goal scorer. "I just hope I repaid them with the goal and hopefully there's a lot more to come."

Keane played 72 minutes before being substituted for Magee in the second half, and created several dangerous opportunities.

"The first half [Keane] looked sharp and he should have had one or two more goals," said midfielder David Beckham, who notched his 11th assist of the season on Keane's goal. "I'm happy that he got off to a good start."

Keane is the latest addition to the Galaxy's star-studded roster, joining English icon Beckham and American World Cup hero Landon Donovan on MLS's first-place club.

Los Angeles (14-3-9, 51 points) extended its lead atop MLS to six points over Seattle with the victory, and has lost only one league match in its last 17. San Jose (5-10-10, 25 points) is eighth in the Western Conference.

The disparity between the clubs, though, wasn't as wide as the final score indicated. San Jose actually outshot Los Angeles 15-10 and the Galaxy's goals were its only shots on frame of the night.

"[San Jose] played a good game and I think our guys, for the most part, did a good job defensively tonight," Galaxy manager Bruce Arena said. "We were a little sloppy in the last ten minutes of the first half, and the second half was a grind. We looked tired and didn't do a good job with our passing but we hung on."

Keane's new strike partner nearly upstaged the Irishman's debut with an early goal. Adam Cristman received a great pass from midfielder Juninho only 49 seconds into the match, but the forward put his low shot off the outside of the far post.

Cristman had another good opportunity in the 7th minute, but he redirected David Beckham's looping cross over the crossbar.

San Jose's Jamaican forward Khari Stephenson caused problems for the Galaxy's defense early, putting two shots on goal in the game's first 11 minutes.

Keane started the game playing slightly behind Cristman but pushed up higher around the 15-minute mark. His first goal-scoring opportunity came in the 19th, when he pulled a shot wide from inside the penalty box.

The breakthrough came two minutes later off of a quick free kick from Beckham. The English international looped a pass from midfield that cleared San Jose's backline and gave Keane time to run under the ball. The debutant calmly stuttered, sending Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch jumping to block a high shot, and passed the ball along the ground into the back of the net for his first career MLS goal.

"When you come to a new team, it's always nice to get your first goal," Keane said. "If you go a few games without scoring, sometimes it can play on your mind. It was nice to get the first goal and hopefully there's a lot more to come."

The goal, though, was the Galaxy's only shot on goal of the half and San Jose was the better team for the rest of the first period.

Earthquakes midfielder Bobby Convey outmuscled Beckham down the right flank in the 32nd minute, creating enough space to fire a shot from a tight angle that Saunders deflected away.

Midfielder Joey Gjertsen spun at the top of the box and drove a low shot on goal for which Saunders had to stretch out his 6-foot-4 frame to save in the 34th minute.

Three minutes later, defender Steven Beitashour did well on his reception of a long pass before playing a beautiful square ball to forward Chris Wondolowski in the middle of the box. Wondolowski, last year's MLS scoring champion, botched the shot completely, shanking it wide of the far post.

San Jose midfielder Rafael Baca got into the attacking action in the 41st minute, testing Saunders with a low shot from the top of the box that the keeper pushed wide of the post.

The Earthquakes continued to have the upper hand in the early stages of the second half, highlighted by Gjertsen's 57th-minute low shot wide of the far post off of a good cutting move.

Keane almost had a second goal in the 64th minute - this time off of a counter attack. Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez played an accurate long ball that left Keane with an open-angled shot from the left side of the penalty box. The Irishman couldn't double his luck, however, as he sent his shot well over Busch's crossbar.

The move was Keane's last goal-scoring chance of the night because Arena substituted the 31-year-old striker in the 72nd minute for Mike Magee.

"I thought [Keane] was excellent," Donovan said. "When he's not less than 48 hours from getting off a flight, you'll probably see a little more energy. But I thought he was in great spots, he did well with the ball and obviously his goal was fantastic... Good soccer players are easy to play with and he's a very good soccer player."

The game tightened up considerably in the late stages, with far more crunching midfield tackles on display than good looks at goal.

One of those tackles resulted in the Earthquakes being reduced to ten men. Donovan went in for a sliding challenge on Beitashour in the 81st minute, clearing the ball out of play. Beitashour then looked as if he tried to jump over Donovan, but his cleat came down on the Galaxy's captain knee, enough evidence for referee Andrew Chapin to brandish a red card.

"I don't know what exactly happened," Donovan said. "I know he did step on me. Maybe it was accidental, maybe not."

Magee's introduction seemed to inject new life into what had become a stagnant Los Angeles attack. The substitute striker put a dangerous ball across the goal mouth in the 88th minute that fellow sub Miguel Lopez narrowly missed deflecting into the net.

Two minutes later, Magee (pictured left) charged across the penalty box and headed a Beckham cross just wide of the top corner of Busch's goal. On the very next play, Magee put the result beyond a doubt, scoring his third league goal of the season on a well-executed passing sequence by the Galaxy.

Donovan collected a deflected shot at the top of the box and slid a pass to midfielder Sean Franklin down the right flank. Franklin hit a low cross along the ground that Magee smoothly tucked past Busch with one flick of his boot, giving Los Angeles a 2-0 lead in the 90th minute.

Magee's goal capped an impressive season series for the L.A. forward against San Jose - he played the entire second half of the teams' June match in goal, posting a clean sheet as an emergency goalkeeper.

"We play them twice and things have definitely gone well for me," Magee said. "I hope we play them again."

News and Notes

- The Galaxy continue play in the CONCACAF Champions League this Thursday, when they play host to Costa Rican club L.D. Alajuelense at 7 p.m. at the Home Depot Center. Both teams took three points from their first group stage match, with the Galaxy defeating C.D. Motagua of Honduras 2-0 and Alajuelense beating Monarcas Morelia of Mexico 1-0.

- Los Angeles made space on its roster for Keane this week by trading Juan Pablo Angel to Chivas USA for a third-round pick in the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft. Despite having scored only three goals in 22 MLS appearances for the Galaxy this season, Angel promptly scored in his debut for Chivas USA on Saturday night. "That's fabulous. I think it's great," Arena said about Angel scoring. "I think both of our local teams have benefitted this week from the acquisition of players. I'm happy for Juan."

- The Galaxy return to league play next Sunday on the road against the New York Red Bulls. The Red Bulls are in fifth place in the East on 32 points and haven't won in their last seven league matches. New York striker Thierry Henry (pictured right) leads MLS with 12 goals on the year, one more than Donovan's haul.

- After his goal, Keane delighted the Home Depot Center crowd with his trademark cartwheel and somersault celebration that he made famous in the English Premier League. Responding to a reporter who indicated that he hadn't seen the celebration before, Keane said with a laugh: "Is that the first time you've seen it? I’ve been doing it for 14 years. Do you not watch TV?"


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