Robbie Keane will come face to face with World Cup foe Thierry Henry in one of his first games for the LA Galaxy.
The Ireland captain has signed a two-year deal with David Beckham’s West Coast team and is awaiting his work visa before taking up residence in Los Angeles.
Keane has claimed that his move is a “dream come true” and said he is excited by the prospect of linking up with Galaxy coach Bruce Arena and his new teammates this week.
He will also encounter Henry, the man who handled the ball in Paris two years ago and bundled Ireland out of the World Cup.
Henry is now the star attraction with the Red Bulls, who host Keane’s Galaxy side in New York on Sunday, August 28 what promises to be an interesting encounter.
The 31-year-old Ireland striker will cost the Galaxy almost $5 million and will be loaned back to an English side in the American close season.
“I am delighted, honored and very excited to be joining the LA Galaxy,” said Keane.
“I have always wanted to come and play in MLS so it’s the perfect combination for me and a dream come true. My family and I have already been made to feel very welcome in telephone calls from Tim Lei eke and Bruce Arena.
“Also when David Beckham came and trained at Spurs recently he couldn’t speak highly enough about the Galaxy, their fans and the league in general, so I can’t wait to get over and get started.”
Keane should make his debut for the Galaxy next week and will feature in their match away to the Red Bulls in New York at the end of August.
Ireland’s record goal scorer added, “I have already discussed football with Bruce Arena and I know exactly what he wants from me.
“I am fit, fresh and ready to go. I’ve come here to score goals and help this team achieve their goals. This is a massive opportunity for me in my career.
“I aim to grab it with both hands and hopefully help give the Galaxy fans what they want.”
Arena said, “Robbie Keane will be a great addition to our club. I have followed his career and have always respected his ability as a competitor and a goal scorer.
“I believe that he brings qualities in and around the penalty area that we have been lacking. Hopefully, he will be another piece of the puzzle in our quest for the Supporters’ Shield and an MLS Cup championship as well as to advance to the next round of the CONCACAF Champions League.”
It is believed that Keane insisted on a loan spell back in England as part of his move to LA to protect his international career.
The Dubliner has already consulted Irish boss Giovanni Trapattoni about the move and received assurances that it will not affect his Ireland place.
Keane’s wife Claudine is also keen to join the Beckhams in Los Angeles but, like former England captain David, Keane will demand a return to Europe in the MLS close season at the end of the year.
“Robbie is desperate to get to the European Championship finals with Ireland next year and he won’t let anything get in the way of that,” revealed a source close to the player.
LA Galaxy officials are already in talks to play a potential friendly in Dublin in November, probably against Shamrock Rovers in Keane’s hometown of Tallaght.
Support for Trap
Meanwhile, Keane is the latest player to urge the FAI to hand Giovanni Trapattoni a new contract as Irish manager.
Keane believes the improvement in the Irish team in the last two years is enough to warrant a contract extension for the Ireland boss.
Trapattoni has yet to formally negotiate on his current deal with the FAI which expires at the end of the Euro 2012 campaign.
The Italian fears his future will be determined by Ireland’s fate in the bid to reach next summer’s European finals in Poland the Ukraine.
But Keane is adamant the FAI should act now after Ireland warmed up for their September acid tests with a scoreless draw at home to Croatia last week.
“Yes,” said Keane when asked if Trap deserves a new deal. “It is clear to see the job he has done since he has come into the set-up.
“He is building a good squad. Every player goes on to the pitch knowing exactly what he has to do and from a player’s point of view that is all you want to know.
“It is a massive improvement on the last few years.”
Ireland kept another clean sheet on Wednesday night as Trapattoni’s team stretched their unbeaten run to five games.
“People question these games so close to the start of the Premier League but that was all about preparation for Slovakia,” added Keane.
“The main aim was to concentrate on that. We want to get something out of both games, against Slovakia and Russia.
“We are not going to sit back and look for a draw. We’ve never done that over the years and that’s not going to change now.
“We’ll be going into both games trying to get the win but I don’t think about targets, I will just take each game as it comes.
“Slovakia sets it all up. We will be going into that game desperate to get the three points.
“Then we go to Russia and away from home we are not the easiest team to play against. They are two games I am really looking forward to.”
Defender Sean St. Ledger also had one eye on September’s games with Slovakia and Russia after re-uniting with center back partner Richard Dunne at the Aviva.
“It was a good chance to show the manager what I can do again with Slovakia so close,” said the Leicester man.
“That game is only three weeks away now and we all want to play a part in it. It is a huge game in this qualification group.”
Trap keeps mum
Giovanni Trapattoni has refused to become embroiled in a World Cup war of words with Faroe Islands boss Brian Kerr.
Former Ireland manager Kerr was critical of Trapattoni’s methods ahead of his own team’s heavy 4-0 defeat to Northern Ireland in a Euro 2012 game last week.
Kerr, whose team was drawn with Ireland in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, openly criticized Trapattoni’s failure to watch his players in club action.
But Trapattoni, yet to agree a new deal with the FAI, has refused to fight words with words with one of his predecessors.
“I will shake hands with him as a colleague before the Faroe Islands game but I have no interest in what my other colleagues say or do,” insisted Trapattoni.
“That has never been my way in all my years in football. I could also ask him how many games he sees but that is not my way.
“I live for my job, not what others do. I stick to my own job – there are words and there are results and I concentrate on results.
“You create attention when you have no other argument. Is he angry? I don’t know but it is not my interest. This is not my problem.
“I don’t analyze what he did or did not do. I am over 30 years a professional football manager and I only think about my job and my players.”
Trapattoni has promised to keep an eye on Sunderland’s new signing James McClean -- after the Derry born youngster switched international allegiances.
McClean stunned Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington when he withdrew from his squad just 24 hours before they beat the Faro Islands 4-0 at Windsor Park.
The 22-year-old left winger wants to follow fellow Derry export Darron Gibson into the Republic set-up despite Worthington’s interest and Trap is happy to oblige.
“James has made his decision and we will watch him closely now as he develops with Sunderland,” said Trapattoni.
“He is a young player and one we will watch for the future. He wants to play for us and that is important for me when it comes to picking players.”
Set to start the new season in the Sunderland reserves, McLean is keen to take his chance with the Republic.
“I know which team I want to represent and moving to Sunderland can only help my realize my dream of playing for the Republic,” said the former Derry City star.
Bohemians threw a spanner in the Airtricity League title race with a 2-1 win away to table toppers Sligo Rovers on Saturday night.
Shamrock Rovers had set their stall out with a 6-0 thumping of UCD in Tallaght the previous evening. Derry City are now top of the table after their 2-0 win at home to St. Patrick’s Athletic.
Drogheda and Dundalk drew 2-2 in the Louth derby while Bray Wanderers hammered Galway 4-0.
Moving to Ireland
After living in Ireland for almost one year, this is what I’ve learned