Ireland, and the great Irish people, have contributed many a great things to the world- potato chips, the submarine, U2, the tank, color photography, and of course Guinness. But I'd argue that their greatest export to America was, and is, LA Galaxy captain Robbie Keane and now i'm not alone in this thought (they are also said to have perfected SATIRE, just ask Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde or George Bernard Shaw).
The electrifying forward's MLS story began on August 20th, 2011. Though his debut lacked the media attention and Galaxy colored confetti that we had previously seen for David Beckham, his impact on the field was immediate. We waited all but 21 minutes to see his first goal and the subsequent first cartwheel.
David Beckham was not only the face of the Galaxy, but arguably of the entire league throughout his time in LA, and that was a shadow much too large for any player to step out of. He was a global icon and a household brand, even if his on-field performances left much more to be desired.
On the other hand, Keano's success on the field was unprecedented, winning back to back MLS cups and scoring goals at an incredible rate. Yet, for most of the American public, he was nothing more than an 'Unidentified Fan'.
While in the Beckham periphery, Keane scored 23 goals across all competitions his first full year... compared that to 15 by Thierry Henry, or 12 by Tim Cahill in their first full years. He has also now won three MLS cups, more than any other designated player not named Landon Donovan. From a results and success standpoint, he is far and away the best foreign player to play in MLS.
He is the gold standard for designated players in this young league. He may not get the international attention of a Steven Gerrard, the money of a Kaka, the cult following of a Pirlo or Drogba, or the underwear commercial opportunities of a David Beckham, but 'the lad' has a track record that begs to be noticed and celebrated.
Last Wednesday night, he was finally recognized outside of MLS as he received an ESPN award previously won by icons David Beckham, Thierry Henry, and Landon Donovan. This marks a turning point in his outstanding career, and perhaps a turning point for the American soccer market and the league.
Being acknowledged outside of the league could mean that there are enough fans following the sport now that we won't just give those awards to household names; it means that the cache and value of the award will continue to grow, hand in hand with the league; it means that Robbie Keane, four years later, has finally arrived. He is on the precipice of becoming an absolute legend in MLS, for a franchise beginning to make it a habit to field legends.
The ESPY silverware serves as a cherry on top to an incredible season in which he helped guide the Galaxy to their fifth championship, won the regular season MVP award, scored the final game's winning goal, and won MLS cup MVP. We are now entering the next chapter in the Robbie Keane story, and this one will include much more celebrity appeal.
Congratulations captain Keano!