For Galaxy's Robbie Keane, it's been grueling journey to MVP honors

Galaxy's Robbie Keane measures his MLS MVP year in joy as much as in goals

Robbie Keane didn't have to go far to pick up Major League Soccer's most-valuable-player award Wednesday.

"We took the elevator down to the lobby, then took another elevator up here," explained Keane's wife, Claudine, who accompanied her husband from their condominium on the 42nd floor of the Ritz-Carlton to the posh 24th-floor restaurant where the presentation took place.

The journey the Galaxy striker had to endure to earn the award, however, was much longer and far more difficult.

It began 13 months ago with a trip to London for a pair of operations on his balky Achilles' tendons, followed by six weeks of painful rehab. Then came the grueling nine-month season, one in which Keane set career MLS highs with 19 goals and 14 assists.

And the journey's not over, since Keane and the Galaxy have one final challenge to negotiate: Sunday's MLS Cup final with the New England Revolution at Keane's other home, the StubHub Center.

"It's been a long year but it's been worth it," said Keane, 34. "I was waking up in the morning and I could hardly walk. Since the operation I feel great."

So do the Galaxy, which led the league in scoring this season en route to its third MLS Cup appearance in Keane's four seasons in the U.S.

"It would be hard to say that we could be here without him," Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena said. "He is that valuable."

That value was rewarded by the MLS players, media members and club officials who voted on the award and made Keane an easy winner over Obafemi Martins of the Seattle Sounders and New England's Lee Nguyen.

Martins, a Nigerian, had 17 goals and 13 assists, making him the only player in the league besides Keane to finish among the top five in both categories. Nguyen, a Vietnamese American from Texas, had 18 goals, including a league-best nine game-winners.

The key for Keane, though, was his consistency. After being limited to just 23 games last year, the Galaxy captain, who is from Ireland, rebounded from his off-season surgeries to make a career-high 29 appearances in 2014, scoring or assisting on 33 of his team's 69 goals. Only San Jose's Chris Wondolowski, who participated in 34 goals in his MVP season in 2012, contributed to more scores in one MLS season.

For Keane, however, the season was measured as much by joy as it was by goals.

"It's fairly simple for me. I love what I do," he said. "I wake up every morning looking forward to going to practice. I wake up Saturday or Sunday desperate; I can't wait to play a game.

"I don't care about the money. For me it's about playing."

And the glass MVP trophy wasn't the only award Keane picked up this week. On Tuesday he was also named to his third consecutive MLS Best XI team, a kind of postseason All-Star team on which he was joined by teammates Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez.

For Donovan, who will retire after Sunday's game as the league's career leader in goals and assists, it was his seventh Best XI selection, also an MLS record.

Not that any of that it matters much just days before a final in which Donovan can set yet another record by winning his sixth MLS Cup. And that's the only award any of the players say they really want.

So when someone outside the Galaxy locker room shouted congratulations to Donovan moments after the All-Star team was announced, it caught him by surprise.

"For what?" he asked.

Keane echoed that sentiment Wednesday.

"It's been a great season but we still have one more game to go," he said. "So I'm very focused."

Twitter: @kbaxter11

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times