It’s been nearly four years since Robbie Keane played in Colorado for the first time, but he hasn’t forgotten that game.
Not for what he did, but for what he couldn’t do.
“I couldn’t breathe,” Keane said.
It’s a memory he’s been sharing with new Galaxy teammates Ashley Cole, Jelle Van Damme and Nigel de Jong, who will be making their first Major League Soccer trip away from Carson’s StubHub Center (elevation 39 feet) to Commerce City (elevation 5,164 feet) for Saturday’s game with the Rapids (4 p.m. PST, TWC, TWC Deportes).
“I know how hard it is and how hard it’s going to be,” said Cole, who played an exhibition in Denver for Italian club Roma two years ago. “Everyone keeps saying it’s kind of hard to breathe. It takes a toll on your body then after that you get a second wind.
“It’s something I’m not used to.”
Cole will also have to adapt to a couple of new Galaxy starters because goalkeeper Dan Kennedy and midfielder Giovani dos Santos, who both came out of Sunday’s season-opening win over D.C. United with injuries, didn’t make the trip to Colorado. Brian Rowe, who stopped five shots in relief of Kennedy, and Mike Magee, who replaced Dos Santos and had a hand in all four of the Galaxy’s second-half goals, will probably start in their places.
Meanwhile Van Damme, who missed the opener because of an ankle injury, is expected to be available Saturday. But Coach Bruce Arena expects those lineup changes to be seamless.
“The adjustments already came into play in the last game,” he said. “It’s not that complicated.”
The altitude, however, could be.
“Nothing you can do,” the coach said. “If you come up with something, let me know.”
Actually, Arena, who has lost three of 15 games in Colorado as an MLS coach, has come up with something. Because many sports scientists believe the impact of high altitude on athletes can be reduced by competing within 24 hours of arrival, the Galaxy didn’t land in Denver until late Friday afternoon.
Keane says the altitude can be more of a mental issue than a physical one anyway.
“You’ve got to try to switch out, not think about it so much,” he said. “It is what it is. We can’t make excuses.”
De Jong agrees. He grew up in Amsterdam, which lies below sea level, and spent most of his professional career in three other cities that weren’t much higher. But he also played 99 minutes in the 2010 World Cup final in Johannesburg, South Africa, which, at 5,751 feet, tops Denver’s altitude.
“I’ve been there before,” De Jong said. “Of course every country … has different circumstances. But I’m used to it. The only thing you can do is prepare yourself.”
Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11