Anatomy of a Play: Better Understand How Robbie Keane Got So Open

CARSON, CA - JUNE 23: Robbie Keane #7 and Todd Dunivant #2 of of the Los Angeles Galaxy react after Keane's first half goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps at The Home Depot Center on June 23, 2012 in Carson, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Having attempted to break down how the Galaxy offensive machine works, it seemed worthwhile to try and apply our admittedly very basic rubric to a Galaxy scoring play from the outfield. Admittedly, I'm turning the players into cartoon characters in breaking down their roles, but sometimes cartoons are helpful.

The goal we're going to look at is the Robbie Keane goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps. The replay starts as the ball crosses the halfway line and that's where we'll pick up the action.

Here's how the Galaxy arranged themselves at the start of the play. Juninho is dead center as a safety valve, Beckham has moved out into the wing. Donovan and Keane are on either side of the top corner of the box, and Todd Dunivant has come up from the back to take the pass from Beckham and run it up the line (attacking fullback).

football formations

Mike Magee is running toward the top of penalty area, and Hector Jimenez is on the right wing, but they're both uninvolved in the play for now. There are five Vancouver defenders making up the back line. One is marking Donovan, one has to pick up the streaking Dunivant, two is marking Mike Magee who is now inside the penalty area. Unmarked is Robbie Keane, who's just outside the eighteen yard box, though a defender fifteen feet away is pointing at him.

football formations

The Vancouver defender who ran with Dunivant steps up to double team Donovan as LD starts to dribble into the box. The third defender in the line, seeing Dunivant as the main threat sprints to mark him; Robbie Keane is still being marked by a man five feet behind him. Mike Magee is now approaching the goal area, so he picks up a marker, and the fifth defender is still watching the play.

From there, Donovan rolls the ball to Keane. Now the defender behind Keane and the man who stepped up to double team Donovan simultaneously go for long legged tackles, but don't stop the ball or Keane's progress; though they do make him stumble. A third defender is in the area, but he turns his back on the play marking Dunivant, so he doesn't see Keane dribble behind him.

At this point it's just Keane and the keeper. Magee's marker is going to make a run but that's only going to leave Magee free to knock in the rebound if the keeper can't secure it.

Keane's aim is spot on, so no rebound is needed. The defenders point to Dunivant, hoping to get a passive offside, but the pleas are half hearted. Beside, Dunivant wasn't involved in the play.

It won't always be this cut and dry, but our cartoon character versions of the Galaxy all play their role on this one. Juninho as the destroyer of counters in the back. Beckham going out on the wing. Dunivant the attacking fullback. Donovan the #10 creator, finding Robbie Keane who is able to dribble and finish. The play works because everyone fulfills their role and some defenders make some marking mistakes. Of course, had a back line defender stepped up on Keane, that gives Donovan a lane to dribble into and he's got Magee as a target.

Soccer is complicated, it seems. Let's keep trying to understand it.

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