On a historic night at Home Depot Center, Robbie Keane made some history of his own Sunday by recording the first hat trick of his Major League Soccer career to lead the Los Angeles Galaxy to a 4-0 rout of the Seattle Sounders FC in the clubs' first meeting since the Western Conference championship series in November.
Midfielder Robbie Rogers entered the game to a rousing ovation in the 77th minute, becoming the first openly gay male athlete to play in an American professional team sport. The Galaxy signed Rogers to a multiyear contract Saturday after acquiring the rights for him in a trade with the Chicago Fire, and the 26-year-old Huntington Beach native had five touches, one tackle and three completed passes in the final 13 minutes.
"Earlier today I was really nervous, but once I got the stadium it was normal and the guys made it really easy for me," Rogers said. "Everyone played great, so I didn't feel any pressure but it was nice to be back and get my feet wet."
Playing before 24,811 noisy home fans was just what the Galaxy needed to right the ship after a three-game road trip in which they lost to Vancouver, 3-1, beat Philadelphia, 4-1, and suffered their third shutout loss this season last Sunday in New York, 1-0, to the Red Bulls.
The victory moved Los Angeles (6-4-2) ahead of idle Colorado into fourth place in the conference with 20 points, seven behind first-place FC Dallas.
Keane scored three goals in 44 minutes, the 18th hat trick in Galaxy history and the fastest since Alejandro Moreno tallied three goals in 43 minutes in 2004. It was the club's second hat trick this season, with the first recorded by forward Mike Magee, who was traded to Chicago for Rogers, in the season opener against the Fire.
"As a striker, it's always great to score goals because it breeds confidence for you, but the most important thing is getting the three points," Keane said. "It was great to see Robbie [Rogers] get that kind of reception from the fans and now he can concentrate on being a Galaxy player."
Sean Franklin opened the scoring by re-directing Keane's centering pass from five yards for his first goal of the season in the 12th minute. Keane doubled the lead 12 minutes later with a hard drive from just inside the penalty area.
Keene was awarded a penalty kick in the 34th minute and his shot to the left side was saved by goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. However, the referee ruled Sounders players entered the box too soon and Keene buried his second attempt into the bottom right corner.
Keane converted another penalty kick 10 minutes later to complete his trifecta after Sounders midfielder Brad Evans was issued a yellow carded for tripping. It marked Keane's 18th goal in 25 games since returning from the summer European Championships. Keane was replaced in the 73rd minute by Jose Villareal and leaves Monday for Europe to play four international matches for Ireland.
"Our start to the game was really good and Keane's first goal was big because it got us a 2-0 lead," Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena said. "The game played out just how we hoped and he was able to come out earlier and rest because he's flying to Europe tomorrow."
Seattle (4-3-3) entered Sunday's contest on a six-game unbeaten streak and had scored four goals in each of its previous two matches, but did not have a shot on goal until the 58th minute against L.A.'s aggressive back line. The Sounders played the waning moments a man short after former Chivas USA player Shalrie Joseph was given a red card in the 88th minute.
Rookie Greg Cochrane started in place of defender Todd Dunivant, who was out with a quad strain.
"Greg played well and gave us a good performance," Arenas said. "We've been inconsistent, but overall I thought we rewarded ourselves tonight."