Robbie Keane was awarded the Major League Soccer most valuable player today, a lovely crystal award which he beat out Obafemi Martins and Lee Nguyen for. The presentation of the awards always stirs up a familiar debate, so I'm going to lead with the fact that Keane is absolutely deserving of the award.
The debate with Most Valuable Player awards always comes down to this: how exactly do we quantify valuable? Certainly value is a relative thing, and it doesn't automatically imply outstanding or best. This usually swings toward the benefit of players on teams where they are a big fish in a small pond. "Could the team have done this without this player" is usually part of the criteria.
In the case of the Galaxy, stand out performances like Keane and Landon Donovan have had in the past are often met with a critical response that they're helped out too much by each other. LA was racking up all time performances before Keane put on the uniform, so it's hard to give him an award which implies he increased the value of the team. That his presence made the team better.
Alexi Lalas posted on his blog criteria with which to award someone the MVP in MLS, back when the voting was going on. Going down the list, you see how close it can be when voting based on objective criteria. Keane is eight goals off the Golden Boot, but when you take away Bradley Wright-Phillips' multi-goal games now we're looking at 21 for BWP and 16 for Keane. Take away the six penalty kick goals for Phillips. It starts to look closer.
Then take a look at the assists, specifically how many goals that Robbie Keane had the primary assist on. It starts to come clear that Keane was an integral part of the Galaxy offense whether he was scoring or creating chances. That Keane made Gyasi Zardes better, that Landon Donovan struggled when Keane wasn't there to bounce the ball around with.
Yes Robbie Keane is a great player on a great team. No, that shouldn't take away from the fact that he was integral to the Galaxy getting the results that they did. That shouldn't take away from his incredible consistency since joining the league. The fact that as a foreign Designated Player, he didn't treat LA as a vacation.
Congratulations Robbie Keane, you certainly deserve the recognition.