Editorial (November 15, 2016) – LA Galaxy are already making decisions in their young off season. The club announced earlier this week that Steven Gerrard will not be back in 2017. They still need to make a decision about head coach Bruce Arena, who is out of contract. The other big contract question: what should they do about Robbie Keane? Let’s break it down.
LA Galaxy Off Season: What To Do With Robbie Keane?
First off, Keane is one of the best designated players in league and Galaxy history. By on the field performance, an argument can be made that he’s the best DP in MLS history. He will forever be attached to the Galaxy’s dynasty of three MLS Cups from 2011-2014. He deserves a statue outside the StubHub Center if you ask me.
That said, Keane is 36-years-old. Across the board, his starts from 2016 are his lowest since coming to MLS (neglecting 2011 since he didn’t sign with LA till August). He played in only 17 games and was never really healthy for more than six weeks. He recorded only 10 goals and 2 assists. Those were his lowest totals for those stats (previous was 16 goals and 8 assists).
His goals/90 minutes didn’t regress that much however. He had a 0.63 g/90 in 2016. While that’s his second lowest since 2012, his average prior to this season is 0.71.
That said, he still can’t play with Giovanni dos Santos. Dos Santos is 27-years-old and clearly the future of the club. Furthermore, the Galaxy need to make philosophical changes, and getting younger is one of them.
Age Should Eliminate Him From A Big DP Contract:
The fact is, the league is going in a younger direction. Big contracts to world class stars on their last leg have come back to hurt MLS teams. Frank Lampard and Pirlo haven’t always been healthy for New York City FC. Neither has Gerrard for the Galaxy. Then there’s Didier Drogba and #DrogbaGate. Signing big international stars in their mid-thirties just isn’t how you win in MLS anymore.
The Galaxy should be able to get a quality international player in their early thirties (possibly younger) with an open DP slot. That player should absolutely be healthier, fitter, and more impactful than Robbie Keane at present.
For these reasons, I can’t see the Galaxy re-signing Keane to a multi-million dollar DP extension.
Possible TAM Level Contract Or Lower:
If you had asked me back in August that if Keane was willing to take a TAM level contract and a reduced role, I’d probably have said yes to extending him. However, he wasn’t great down the stretch of the regular season. He was borderline inert in the playoffs. That didn’t instill confidence in the front office that he’ll be healthy and good for all of 2017.
Keane is an extremely prideful (read: arrogant) player. It’s a quality that made him great for many years. But in his old age, being prideful probably means he isn’t willing to take a pay cut or a reduced role.
For these reasons, I don’t see the Galaxy offering him a TAM level contract. Even if they did, I’m not sure he’d take it.
Now, if Keane was willing to accept a bench role, I’d be willing to offer him a lower level contract. He could be a mentor to the younger players like Raul Mendiola and Jack McBean. He could still help Gyasi Zardes in training. He could still be a voice in the locker room. On the field, he could play the Alan Gordon role. Come on for 20 minutes or so when the Galaxy are trailing and need some magic.
That said, I don’t see his ego accepting that. In that, I’d be surprised if Keane is back with the Galaxy in 2017.
Possible Landing Spots:
Keane said after the Galaxy’s last playoff game “whether that’s here or somewhere else I’ll 100% be playing in the league.” It’s a real possibility that he’s not back with LA. Where then does he end up?
I think he’ll have some suitors in MLS. With all the TAM floating around, at least one club will be willing to throw a contract offer to him in desperation. Any team with needs at forward depth is a real possibility. With all the issues the Vancouver Whitecaps have had with forward signings, they could be a possibility.
The Columbus Crew also need a shake up in the locker room. Keane could certainly help Columbus hit the reset button after a terrible season. With their issues at forward and the injury to Mauro Diaz, maybe FC Dallas gives him a shot (assuming Carlos Ruiz does not return).
If an MLS team does not come calling, Keane could always return to Europe. A Championship or Scottish team would probably be winning to give him a look. He could always return home to Ireland as well.