Keane on cusp of securing elusive title
Published 19/11/2011 | 05:00
ROBBIE KEANE can cap a memorable week by clinching the first league title of his career this weekend before embarking on a winter break that will give him a unique build-up to the finals of Euro 2012.
LA Galaxy take on Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup final in Los Angeles tomorrow (kick-off 2.0am Monday, Irish time).
Keane has been a big hit since joining Galaxy and manager Bruce Arena will be looking to the 31-year-old to sign off on the season in style.
It's been a hectic few weeks for the Dubliner, but he will have plenty of time to rest over the coming months.
While the remainder of Giovanni Trapattoni's squad get stuck into the meatiest part of their season, with a crowded fixture schedule over the Christmas period, the skipper will have his feet up, having ruled out the prospect of a loan move to Europe.
Keane's long career in the game has been notable for a proliferation of moves and a shortage of trophies.
He collected a League Cup winner's medal with Spurs in 2008, 10 years after he achieved his only other major honour as a key member of Brian Kerr's U-18 European Championship- winning team.
The final is also a huge match for David Beckham.
Three years ago, the former England international's first full season at LA Galaxy ended with the team finishing a dismal sixth of nine clubs in Major League Soccer's Western Division, parting company with their ill-fated manager Ruud Gullit in the process.
Things looked equally bleak this time last year. An injury-ravaged Beckham had taken the field for the Galaxy just 18 times in the previous 24 months -- a period in which his team-mates had played almost 70 games.
But something odd has happened in this twilight stage of Beckham's spell in Los Angeles. Something as unlikely, but as strangely thrilling, as any of those impossible free-kicks he would unwind during the glory days that made him the world's most valuable footballer.
Put simply, Beckham got back in the groove. In defiance of the cynics who called his American adventure an expensive PR stunt, England's former captain has somehow managed to spend 2011 playing some of the most intelligent, and effective, football of his life.
You can see evidence of Beckham's renaissance in the fact that the current MLS campaign has seen him play 26 times for the Galaxy, more than any previous season.
The revitalised Beckham -- playing in the centre of midfield alongside Brazil's Juninho in a 4-4-2 formation -- has worked out how to get the best out of his creaking frame.
He was never blessed with blistering pace but he is still passing the ball like a dream, and remains one of the world's most dangerous dead-ball specialists.
The final could represent his farewell to the Los Angeles Galaxy. The $32.5m five-year contract he signed with such fanfare in 2006 reaches completion tomorrow night.
And, although Galaxy have offered him a one year-extension, apparently on the same salary, he is being courted by a string of foreign clubs, most notably Paris Saint-Germain, now owned by Qataris with open chequebooks.