When Sigi Schmid devises a gameplan for his Seattle Sounders team against the LA Galaxy in the Western Conference finals, a crucial component will involve quieting Robbie Keane.
The Irish forward has scored 18 goals this year, leading a fluid Galaxy attack that looks determined to repeat as MLS Cup champions.
"He makes our job really easy," Landon Donovan said. "He always wants the ball. He puts himself in dangerous spots, and if we do our job and get him the ball he's going to score more often than not."
The service has been there throughout the playoffs. Against the San Jose Earthquakes in the conference semis, Keane clanked a shot off the post in the first leg before finishing off a double in the second.
After each finish, the former Tottenham striker launched into his trademark cartwheel-forward roll-air punch celebration. His teammates enjoy the goals more than they do the acrobatics.
"I always worry that he's going to hurt himself, because I wouldn't attempt it," David Beckham said. "He's used to doing it, he's practiced it quite a few times over his career. As long as he keeps scoring he can carry on doing it."
Keane has never stopped scoring in his career. A professional since 17, he has scored over 250 career goals, over 50 of which have come for the Republic of Ireland. So when Beckham notes that Keane has practiced his celebration a few times, note the understatement.
"He's done it hundreds and hundreds of times," Donovan said. "I hope I see it again on Sunday."
The Sounders visit the Home Depot Center on Sunday for the first match in the two-legged tie. Then the teams head back to Seattle next week to see which team will play in the final.
Keane's form, plus the Galaxy's playoff experience, will certainly aid Los Angeles. The 32-year-old has scored 15 goals and assisted seven more since June 23.
"Since he's come back from the European Championships, he's been the best player in the league," Bruce Arena said.
Of course, it's not like he was a bad player before that.
"Robbie's been in great form for about 15 years now," Mike Magee said. "Nothing's changed with him. He's one of the best forwards to ever play forward."
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