Capitals

Robbie Keane has a striking season for LA Galaxy

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Robbie Keane has a striking season for LA Galaxy

CARSON, Calif. (AP) Robbie Keane bristles at the very suggestion that anybody on two continents might have even wondered if he's lost a step.

Sure, Keane had a rough summer at Euro 2012. So did his entire Irish national team, outscored 9-1 in three ignominious losses.

The charismatic striker has proved he's still on top of his formidable game during a dynamic season for the Los Angeles Galaxy, and he's hoping to keep showing his form with another month in the MLS playoffs.

Not that anybody should ever doubt him in the first place.

``I played in the English Premiership for a long time, scored over 120-odd Premiership goals,'' Keane said Wednesday after training with the Galaxy, who open defense of their MLS Cup title against Vancouver on Thursday night. ``I think you don't really have to (prove anything). I think the records speak for themselves.''

In his first full MLS season, Keane finished fourth in the league with 16 goals in just 28 games despite making numerous trips around the world as Ireland's captain. He led Los Angeles in scoring while Landon Donovan and David Beckham struggled with nagging injuries, propelling the Galaxy through four largely outstanding months of play.

``I feel good. I feel really sharp,'' Keane said. ``I'm just going to continue to do what I've been doing in recent form.''

But none of it will mean much to Keane unless the favored Galaxy manage a victory over the Whitecaps in their knockout playoff game, setting up a conference semifinal series against top-seeded San Jose.

``I never look back. Always look forward, always,'' Keane said. ``I've never done that as a player, through good times or bad times. I'm one of those people in life, always on to the next day.''

Keane's recent past has been particularly sharp. He scored five goals in five games during a late-season stretch that secured Los Angeles' spot in the playoffs, constantly penetrating defenses with the speed and skill that hasn't changed much since he scored 125 Premier League goals, 11th-most in history.

Keane's teammates are even more impressed because he has spent a big chunk of the season warding off jetlag and exhaustion. The trip to Euro 2012 was a rough assignment, and Keane took a significant share of the criticism for creating little offense up front for Ireland, the first team knocked out of contention.

``I know how difficult it is, traveling back and forward and playing in international games and then coming back and playing in regular-season games,'' Beckham said. ``It's tiring on the body and on the mind at times, but Robbie has been able to overcome that. It's a testament to him as a person and as a player. His first full season, he's come in, he's scored goals, he's had assists, he's worked hard for the team, and he's one of the big reasons we're in the position we're in right now.''

Beckham also can relate to the criticism Keane receives from Irish fans. After all, he faced many of the same complaints about his role on England's national team in recent years.

Keane remains steadfast in his commitment to Ireland, although embattled manager Giovanni Trapattoni left him off the 26-man squad for a friendly against Greece on Nov. 14 while he evaluates new players.

That's good news for the Galaxy if their playoff run picks up steam, because Keane has been arguably their best player during a season that included two goals on his 32nd birthday in July during a 2-0 win at Chicago.

``He's an outstanding player, and his form has been excellent,'' Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. ``He's been a great leader. He shows he wants to be here.''

Keane is making $3.4 million as an MLS designated player this season, and he's warming up to the L.A. lifestyle. Keane and Beckham attended the Los Angeles Lakers' season opener together on Tuesday night, hobnobbing with Russell Brand and Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine at courtside.

``His English has gotten a heck of a lot better,'' Arena said with a grin. ``When he's complaining, we understand him a heck of a lot better now than we did when he first got here.''

Beckham even had a lively conversation with Lakers guard Steve Nash, a part-owner of the fifth-seeded Whitecaps.

The Galaxy's good feelings about their late-season surge could abruptly vanish if they can't beat defense-minded Vancouver, the first Canadian team to make the MLS playoffs despite winning just three of their last 17 games.

``I know people will be looking at them as maybe the underdog, but I don't see it that way,'' Beckham said. ``I don't think there are any underdogs in a one-off game. ... If we continue to play the way we've been playing in the last 15 games or so, we're probably the best team, and the momentum is in our favor. But it's completely different when you get to the playoffs.''

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Need to Know: A look at the Redskins' key 2019 free agents

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Need to Know: A look at the Redskins' key 2019 free agents

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 27, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Here is my sunrise view from this morning:

Looking at next year’s free agents

This post was originally published on March 18. 

There is still work that the Redskins can do in free agency and they still have some of their own players they want to retain. But with a lot of the player movement already in the books, we can take a look forward some of the key Redskin who currently are set to be free agents when the 2019 league year opens. 

QB Colt McCoy (Week 1 age 32)—Lots of questions here. Will the Redskins want to keep him around for another year as Alex Smith’s backup? Or will they want a younger and cheaper backup? Will McCoy want to move on rather than back up another QB who doesn’t miss many games?

OL Ty Nsekhe (32)—The Redskins gave him a second-round restricted free agent tender this year so it’s possible that he could be gone or on a long-term contract in Washington. If he is a free agent, his value and the difficulty of retaining him could depend on if he ends the season as a reserve tackle (easy) or as a starting guard (hard). 

OLB Preston Smith (25)—As we saw with Trent Murphy (three years, $21 million with up to $30 million), pass rushers get paid. Smith also makes big plays. Since Smith came into the NFL, he is the only player with at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. If the Redskins can’t reach a deal on an extension with him this year the franchise tag is a distinct possibility. 

WR Jamison Crowder (25)—This year the supply of quality receivers both as free agents and in the draft sent contract prices skyrocketing. To guard against that happening next year, the Redskin should start talking to Crowder about an extension soon. 

ILB Zach Vigil (27)—As I noted here, Vigil went from being cut in September to a very valuable reserve in November. Both Zach Brown and Mason Foster will still be under contract, but the Redskin still should make an effort to retain Vigil for special teams and as a capable backup. 

Other Redskins who are slated to be UFA’s next year are DL Ziggy Hood and ILB Martrell Spaight. 

It’s also worth noting that WR Maurice Harris and DE Anthony Lanier will both be restricted free agents next year. Both positions were pricey in free agency this year, so both could require at least second-round tenders, which likely will increase to about $3 million in 2019. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler