Robbie Keane’s time in Los Angeles may be coming to an end. The Irish forward racked up 83 goals in 125 games with the Galaxy since joining the league in 2011. The Galaxy talisman is out of his contract, but has said that he wants to play in MLS next season. Keane may still re-sign with LA but even as a player at the age of 35, he will not have a shortage of teams that would be interested in his services. What could Robbie Keane bring to Atlanta United in its inaugural season?
Experience - So far, Atlanta United’s roster is short on MLS experience and adding a player with not only years worth of knowledge in the league but a successful track record will be invaluable heading into the first season.
Leadership - Robbie Keane has established himself in the Galaxy locker room as a leader, as the team’s captain Bruce Arena said “that’s the greatness of Robbie Keane, he scores the goal that makes the difference . . . He should be the player-manager of this team. He’s a special leader, a great player, a real friend and team-mate.” The kind of professional example he can set for players grinding through an expansion season in MLS would be vital for the success of the team.
Fit - As MLSSoccer.com mentioned, Kenwyne Jones will be able to occupy center backs while Keane maraudes through the box creating havoc as a second forward. He should fit nicely in the frontline if Atlanta decides to bring him in. Even if he splits time as a starter and bench player, you could do a lot worse for a supersub.
Skills - He can do this:
Capability - Even though he only started 16 games had had just 17 appearances, Keane was effective when he did play. The forward scored 10 goals in that span and if healthy for the duration of the season, he showed that he can still push for a 20 goal season.
Marketing - Like it or not, this is a business and Robbie Keane is a known entity to both MLS and international soccer fans. His name will bring more attention to the team as it looks to make a splash with a player signing and you can bet that it will also translate in terms of jersey and ticket sales.
Age - Time makes fools of us all and even an MLS legend like Keane is not immune to the cruelties of the calendar. At 36, Keane has played a lot of soccer for club and country. He recently retired from the Ireland National Team and will be celebrating his 36th birthday in July How much more does he have in the tank and does Atlanta want to gamble on a player at this stage in his career?
Health - The Irishman spent half of last season injured. He missed 17 games, though he was effective when he played, the fact that he may be a frequent name listed on the injury report should give Atlanta United pause when pursuing him.
DP Spots - Keane’s most recent contract with LA saw him being paid as a designated player, whether he is worth using a DP slot may be debatable given the uncertainties around his health last season. Is the opportunity cost of bring in Keane worth missing out on another DP down the road?
Cost - This being MLS, bringing in a player like Keane will come with a price. Though he is out of contract, LA still controls the rights to signing Keane and won’t just let him go to another team without being compensated. Atlanta has a stack of MLS stuff it could trade the Galaxy for the forward including GAM, TAM, an Allocation Order spot, etc.
Keane would not qualify for MLS Free Agency, falling two seasons short of the eight required. However, if a move is not made ahead of the Re-Entry Draft, Keane would be available there.
The question is: will he be worth it?
Fit - The flip side of Robbie Keane’s leadership is that he will be coming into a new locker room on an expansion team which my struggle to gain its footing initially. Keane has only been on teams that were contending to win MLS Cup year in and year out. While Atlanta United looks promising and has the ambition of a playoff team, if the team struggles in their first year in the league like Orlando City or NYCFC did, will Keane’s passion diminish and might he set a bad example for the locker room if that is the case?
In the end, I think a player like Robbie Keane is a terrific talent and a rare one to be available in MLS. He has a proven track record in the league and if players like Kenwyne Jones or Hector Villalba have trouble adjusting to the league, the team can rely on the experience and skills that Keane has demonstrated year in and year out in the league.