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Erin Go Big: Irish star Robbie Keane joins Beckham's Galaxy, ready to join MLS title chase
CARSON, Calif. (AP) ' If Robbie Keane has any questions about being a European soccer star in Hollywood, he can simply ask his new midfielder with all the tattoos.
David Beckham is pretty sure the Irish superstar will figure it out on his own while they chase an MLS title with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
With an Irish flag flying above the pitch at Home Depot Center, Keane went through his first training session Friday with his new club. He was welcomed by Beckham and Landon Donovan, who both believe Keane can fix the MLS-leading Galaxy's only serious deficiency: goal-scoring from their forwards.
"It's a very exciting opportunity for me, something that I'm going to relish," Keane said before receiving his new No. 14 jersey in front of dozens of cheering Galaxy supporters and young players. "Hopefully I can bring something different to them, and score a lot of goals."
The Galaxy are counting on it. Although they lead the league standings in the race for their second straight Supporters' Shield, they didn't hesitate to use MLS' designated-player system again to land a third star who can be paid above the league salary cap.
Los Angeles acquired Keane from Tottenham Hotspur on Monday, and his first training session capped a hectic seven-day period since learning of the Galaxy's interest. The 10th-leading goal-scorer in Premier League history is expected to debut for Los Angeles on Saturday night against the San Jose Earthquakes.
Keane played sparingly in the Premier League over the past two seasons, and he became intrigued by MLS when Beckham trained with Tottenham several months ago.
"I've played in the Premiership for a long time, and kind of did what I had to do there," Keane said. "It's time for a new challenge, and it's something you can't take lightly. For me, it was an easy decision."
The Galaxy certainly did their best to make Keane feel at home: The club raised the Irish flag above the pitch at Home Depot Center, which was festooned with green-and-orange balloons and decorations. Media and fans who attended Keane's first news conference were treated to pints of Guinness along with corned beef brisket, cabbage and boiled potatoes.
Beckham never urged Keane to try MLS because "that would have been illegal," he said with a laugh, but simply told the truth about the Galaxy and its mix of excellent fans, aggressive front-office support and ideal weather, not to mention L.A.'s celebrity perks.
"We know he's going to score goals," Beckham said. "You don't become one of the top-10 scorers in the Premiership without that ability. He works hard, and everybody loves the Irish. He brings a lot of qualities that we need."
Keane shrugs off criticism in the Irish media that MLS is a level of soccer below his abilities, saying the league is growing in competitive quality every year. The Irish national team captain also isn't worried about the extra travel for Ireland's two key qualifying matches for Euro 2012 in September.
"I've always been committed to Ireland, and that will continue," Keane said. "We have two massive, massive games next month, and I'll be there."
Los Angeles' management, from ownership to coach and general manager Bruce Arena, again didn't hesitate to make an expensive move for a high-profile star, even if that team-building strategy hasn't endeared them to the rest of the North American league.
"The last time I looked, these guys are in first place," said Tim Leiweke, the president of Galaxy owner AEG. "We don't mind having a target on our backs, and we understand everyone dislikes us. My message to them is, if you don't like it, go get your own."
Arena confirmed that Keane most likely will start for the Galaxy on Saturday night after just one training session in which the Irishman looked sharp and free of jetlag symptoms, Donovan said.
"We understand we've got a lot of pressure and expectations, but we're ready for it," said Donovan, the Galaxy's captain and MLS' second-leading goal-scorer.
With Keane and Donovan likely to return for next season in Los Angeles, Beckham realizes the club will be eager to learn whether he'll extend his groundbreaking five-year commitment, which is up after the season.
"I just have to see how my body feels at the end of the season," Beckham said. "I've always said I'm happy here. I want to be part of this franchise, and I will be, no matter where I am next year. This is exciting, to get a player like Landon and a player like Robbie on the field with you. I'll continue to enjoy that."