Robbie Keane spent part of the off-season earning his coaching licenses, preparation for what he plans to do when his playing career is over.
Then he took the field Sunday and put some of that practical knowledge to use, scoring two first-half goals in the Galaxy’s 4-2 win over the New England Revolution at StubHub Center.
The contributions of Keane, playing for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in March, went beyond the box score. He also helped hold together a unique formation in which Gyasi Zardes lined up as a lone striker while Keane and Giovani dos Santos played as withdrawn forwards.
“Before the game I told them to not get caught up in systems and stuff like that,” Keane said. “You can set a system for the team and you can write on the board and it’s obviously static there. But when you’re playing the game, everyone is running all over the place. ... Everybody works for each other and gets themselves in decent positions.”
Making that work can be difficult for a team like the Galaxy, which plays with three world-class scorers but only one ball. It’s like a basketball team playing with three shooting guards and no one to bring the ball up the court.
New England made it close with goals from Kelyn Rowe and Juan Agudelo three minutes apart midway through the second half, but the comeback stalled in the 77th minute when Jose Goncalves went off because of an injury. That forced the Revolution, who had already used their three substitutions, to play with 10 men and the Galaxy took advantage, with Steven Gerrard scoring in stoppage time to seal the win and make the Galaxy the first franchise in Major League Soccer history to 300 wins.
The goal, Gerrard’s second stoppage-time score in as many home games, also gave each of the Galaxy’s three designated players — Keane, Dos Santos and Gerrard — goals in the same game for only the second time. The other occurrence took place in September.
“I hope it continues. We enjoy playing together,” said Gerrard, who sat out the Galaxy’s previous game because of a groin strain. “We want to make it as difficult as we can for the opposition.
“We’re not just relying on just two or three. We need to have six or seven very dangerous players.”
The Galaxy were dangerous from the opening whistle Sunday with Keane, who spent much of the day roaming freely in the space between Zardes and Dos Santos, opening the scoring in the 13th minute by knocking in a low cross from Zardes at the far post.
Dos Santos doubled the lead 11 minutes later, latching on to a poor clearance outside the New England area and blasting home a curving left-footed shot from just outside the penalty area. Keane gave the Galaxy the only other goal it would need in first-half stoppage time, tapping in another perfectly placed Zardes cross for his 19th multi-game goal, fourth-most in MLS history.
Thanks to Zardes’ precision passes, Keane’s two scores traveled less than five yards combined.
“We are capable of being a pretty good team,” Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena conceded afterward. “[But] we need a lot more work, a lot more coordination. It’s never easy.”
Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter: @kbaxter11