The LA Galaxy announced today that it has signed Ireland international and perennial Major League Soccer MVP candidate to a contract extension. Re-enlistment of the forward’s skills surely comes as welcome news to Galaxy fans who have witnessed a first half to the 2015 MLS season plagued by injuries and absences. Though Keane has repeatedly extolled the virtues of the Galaxy and MLS to former colleagues still plying their trade in Europe, locking up the Irishman to an extension was never a certainty, particularly in light of the reputation Keane developed in Europe as a player prone to wanderlust. Keane appeared for eight different European clubs between 1999 and 2011, a fact which stands in sharp contrast to his former and future teammate, Steven Gerrard, a famously devoted Liverpudlian.
Keane is considered by many to be the most successful European Designated Player in MLS history. Since arriving in 2011, Keane has made 91 appearances with 86 starts for the Galaxy, scored 55 goals and recorded 36 assists with 15 game-winning goals and 16 game-winning assists. Last year, Keane earned 2014 MLS MVP after notching 19 goals and 14 assists during the 2014 season.
More significant than his stats, however, Keane has eschewed the cavalier approach to playing in MLS characteristic of other big-name Designated Players the league has signed and, in so doing, embodies a model for identifying Designated Players who will succeed in MLS that has been replicated several times by other MLS coaches. In essence, that formula is as follows: find a playmaker with (1) a record of success in Europe, who is (2) devoid of prima donna tendencies, (3) physically robust enough to withstand the demands of MLS (both in terms of rough play, travel, field conditions and weather), yet also (4) hungry to win and challenge himself in new ways, (5) interested in developing young players and (6) still capable of performing at a high level on the pitch. Then, put him in a position of leadership on an MLS team with an abundance of young raw talent and get the heck out of the way. One can see glimmers of the implementation of this model in Orlando’s signing of Kaka, NYCFC’s signing of David Villa and Frank Lampard, Toronto’s signing of Michael Bradley and Giovinco, and even the Galaxy’s most recent big-name addition, Steven Gerrard.
In fact, Keane’s success with the Galaxy can perhaps best be appreciated by observing the growth in the young players who operate in his orbit. Gyasi Zardes, who only two years ago was a physically impressive but tactically naïve player with questionable finishing, has positively blossomed under the tutelage of Keane and, until his retirement last season, Landon Donovan. Zardes has emerged as a key component in Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans this year and was this morning named to the USMNT provisional roster for this summer’s Gold Cup. This season has already seen eighteen-year-old Galaxy Academy product Bradford Jamieson IV score his first goal in MLS and his first youth World Cup goal at the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup. The seismic growth of these players is, in some part at least, attributable to the leadership that surrounds them, including Keane. The Galaxy has no shortage of prospects in the first team, Los Dos, and the Academy pipeline – Bruce Arena is no doubt thankful that he will be able to rely on Keane’s sure-footed stewardship of the Galaxy for years to come.
Per club and MLS policy, specific terms of the deal were not disclosed.