LA Galaxy captain Robbie Keane announced his return to the line-up with a bang on Wednesday night, scoring a hat-trick and adding an assist as the MLS Cup holders thrashed amateur side PSA Elite 6-1 in their US Open Cup fifth round clash.
Keane, the reigning MLS MVP, recorded 19 goals and 14 assists in 29 appearances last season to cement his status as the league's deadliest strikers but, having been dealing with a nagging groin strain of late, his impact so far this term has been limited.
Having missed a recent run of seven games, the Irishman was making just his second start since April but he showed no obvious signs of rust in his 71-mintue run-out against the USASA outfit.
After playing in strike-partner Gyasi Zardes in the 19th-minute with a neat pass for the Galaxy’s second, the ex-Tottenham Hotspur forward went on to score in the 29th, 53rd and 70th minutes to take home the match ball and ease concerns over his fitness in the process.
Speaking to lagalaxy.com after the match, Keane said: “Unfortunately I’ve had a long injury and I’m not always used to not playing and when I’m injured it’s usually only a few weeks, but I was out for too long. It’s nice to be back and feeling good.
“I’m feeling a lot better after playing these 70 minutes and will hopefully continue to score more goals and play longer.”
Keane’s performance also came just a week after two of his cousins were killed in a sewer accident in Dublin while he was preparing for the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland and he revealed that returning to the pitch has been a big help in the grieving process.
“When you’re playing football, you forget about everything. No matter what problems that you have when you get on that field, you’re just focused on playing football,” he added to the website. “It’s been a tough couple of weeks but the most important thing is to carry on and continue to play, and do the best for my team.
“I’m always thinking of the people back home and will continue to do that, but for me, I’m thinking about them, and now I’m focused on doing my job.”
After winning three of the past four MLS Cup titles, LA have endured a slow start to the 2015 campaign without the retired Landon Donovan and Keane for most of the season, having drawn seven of their opening 17 games and scored just 16 goals.
However, with their skipper now back fit and his former Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard set to join the club next month, an upturn in form should be just around the corner.