Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/ USA Today Sports
By RYAN TOLMICH
Having coached Landon Donovan at both the club and international level, LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has seen the growth of his star forward every step of the way.
Donovan tied the league’s all-time assist record in Sunday’s 4-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls, but Arena admitted that he didn’t believe that the 32-year-old forward was much of a passer until recently.
“He used to be, I thought, purely a goal scorer,” Arena said after the game. “He’s a much better creator now. He’s a good passer of the ball. He’s improved. He’s gotten better. Him and Robbie [Keane] have been responsible for bring Gyasi [Zardes] along. I think their ability to pass and move is critical to our success.”
For his part, Donovan admitted that he has worked to develop into a strong playmaker by just looking to make the right decision.
“I’ve always wanted to be that type of player,” Donovan said. “I didn’t want to be one dimensional. I wanted to have all sorts of different parts to my game and I hope that showed.”
Here are some more of Monday’s LA Galaxy news and notes:
ZARDES, WRIGHT-PHILLIPS ADMIT ADMIRATION FOR KEANE
Galaxy forward Robbie Keane has spent years playing the game at the highest level. The 34-year-old forward has featured for 10 different teams throughout his career and has even drawn the admiration of some of MLS’ best goalscorers.
Gyassi Zardes, who has 16 goals to Keane’s 17 this season, revealed his admiration for his teammate after the two once again spearheaded the Galaxy attack Sunday with three of the team’s four goals.
“I’ve watched Robbie Keane over the years, and he has always been consistent,” Zardes said. “He is an incredible and phenomenal forward. So just seeing that today from the chip, from his other goal, it’s just wonderful to see that and play alongside of that.”
Joining Zardes in praising Keane was Sunday’s opposing striker, Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips. The Englishman, who leads the league in goals with 24, discussed Keane’s impact on his own game that dates back to the forward’s childhood.
“Growing up, Robbie Keane was my favorite player,” Wright-Phillips said. “We had something in England like a player camera that you could follow that player around, and I used to watch his move and his touch. He is a tremendous player. He hasn’t lost it at all.”
GALAXY TEAMMATES IMPRESSED BY THE PLAY OF PENEDO
Lost in the shuffle of Donovan assists and Keane goals was the clean sheet maintained by Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
However, Penedo’s teammates were quick to credit their goalkeeper after the game, as Penedo’s display Sunday was the latest in a string if impressive performances.
“We needed (Penedo’s saves),” Donovan said. “Bradley Wright-Phillips had some fantastic runs. Got himself in some good positions which he has done all year. Against all the other goalies, he scored those goals. Jaime did a great job, he came up big when we needed him. We don’t often need him to make many saves because our defense does a great job. But tonight we needed him, he was excellent.”
“All around Jaime did a great job tonight, stopping those chances where Bradley [Wright-Phillips] got in behind,” added defender Omar Gonzalez. “[Thierry] Henry running at you is never easy because he can put the ball wherever he wants and Bradley Wright-Phillips with good runs in mind, they’re going to get chances and that’s the way soccer is. They’re going to get chances in games but Jaime came out big and saved us the clean sheet.”
Gonzalez continued to praise his goalkeeper, citing Penedo’ self-belief since returning from duty with the Panama national team as a major factor in his improved play.
“He came back from the national team with a lot of confidence and that’s great to see,” Gonzalez said. “I love seeing my keeper like that. Moving forward we hope he continues to play the way he has been and if he is going to keep playing like that then that’s big for us.”
Where does Donovan rank among the league’s best playmakers? What do you think of Keane’s performances so far this season? What do you think of Penedo’s recent play?
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