Landon Donovan is the biggest name in American soccer. In his final playoff run with the Los Angeles Galaxy, he's dominating the opponents to the degree that some wonder if it's really time for him to hang up his cleats.
The attention is deserved, but it overshadows another person just as important to the Galaxy's success this year: Fellow forward Robbie Keane.
On the Galaxy, Donovan and Keane are something of a dynamic duo. Their most recent performance spurred the Galaxy to a 5-0 win over Real Salt Lake to advance in the MLS playoffs. Donovan notched a hat trick in the game, which by the end felt like a celebration of the American star.
But if Donovan's role is as the Galaxy's finisher, Keane must be credited as the creator. For all of Donovan's impressive footwork and precise shooting, Keane functions as an under-appreciated artist on the field, using his positioning and passing to create the space in which Donovan works.
So while Donovan's three-goal performance took the spotlight after the team's most recent win, Keane walked off the field three assists richer, with his own goal to boot.
During the regular season, Keane was just as instrumental, scoring 19 goals and 14 assists in 34 games -- marks that rank him third and second in the league, respectively. Donovan remains the star, but Keane is a veritable MVP candidate in his fourth MLS season.
Keane is also two years older than Donovan. At 34, the Irishman is dominating Major League Soccer with a veteran savvy that understands how to win the mental battle on the pitch.
Such examples were rampant in the Galaxy's 5-0 win. Keane's goal came on a play in which a counterattack was sprung with the forward far offside. Keane scrambled back onside, running full-speed against the flow of the game, and then took a cross in to score an easy goal.
It wasn't just Keane's speed that created the opportunity -- it was his awareness of exactly where to place himself. Keane's awareness of the defense placed him in a perfect spot in front of Salt Lake's goal, where no defender was able to contest his shot.
Later, Keane sprung Donovan for a one-touch breakaway goal with a pass that employed perfect placement and arc. It's the kind of opportunity that could only be created with world-class field vision.
This is no surprise to Irish soccer fans, who have been admiring Keane's performances since he joined Ireland's national team in 1998. In his sixteen-year international career, Keane has scored 64 goals in International play while excelling in the world's top professional soccer leagues.
While Major League Soccer fans are witnessing an older, slightly slowed Keane, his mental game remains as sharp as ever. This brilliance is most evident in the way Keane springs the Galaxy's offense loose.
Sometimes, it's teammates like Donovan that wind up in the spotlight. But he wouldn't be there without Robbie Keane.