Ibrahimovic gives fans 'Zlatan' -- and MLS its greatest game ever

MLS has had a few superstars grace its fields before. David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Lothar Matthaeus come to mind. But none had a debut like Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Then again, there has never been a game like Saturday's LA Galaxy-LAFC game.

El Trafico is what the new rivalry was dubbed, but the first game was a clasico.

Less than 48 hours after arriving in Los Angeles, Ibrahimovic came off the bench to score two goals and lead the Galaxy to a 4-3 win over LAFC.

Simply for the moment living up to the attention, the game should go down as the greatest in the history of MLS.

Only MLS Cup 1996 -- the league's first final, played in a Nor'easter, late D.C. United comeback from 2-0 down, Eddie Pope golden goal -- comes close.

Saturday's game was the first derby between the new LA rivals. And for the first hour, it looked like the new kid in town, LAFC, had taken over. Winner by 1-0 and 5-1 in its first games on the road, LAFC jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead and led 3-0 after an hour. On another day, Carlos Vela would be lauded for his genius on LAFC's first goal.

Then the game got crazy. Sebastian Lletget and Chris Pontius scored for the Galaxy to make it 3-2 and set things for Zlatan time.

“The fans were demanding something," he said afterward, "and I gave them Zlatan.”

Ibrahimovic's tying goal -- a 40-yard shot over retreating LAFC keeper Tyler Miller -- in the 77th minute would have been enough to make the game an instant classic, but he took it to another level when he scored on a header in stoppage time to win the game for the Galaxy.

“When you're losing, 3-0, the adrenaline is pumping even more, because you want to be able to do something, help the team, help especially when you're in a difficult situation," Ibrahimovic said. "And I just wanted to come in."

On his first goal, the ball fell perfectly for him to fire away.

"I felt I played 40 games for my 20 minutes," said Ibrahimovic, who had not played six Boxing Day for Manchester United. "I did the first sprint and I was starting to breathe [heavily] immediately. So I said this time, I shoot. I don't run with the ball."

On the winning goal, Ibrahimovic slid between two LAFC defenders and beat Miller to a cross from left back Ashley Cole.

"The fourth was even more crazy because you are winning the game," he said. "After that I was like 'just stop the game now.'"

Mark your calendars now: July 26. The rematch, at Banc of California Stadium

17 comments about "Ibrahimovic gives fans 'Zlatan' -- and MLS its greatest game ever".
  1. frank schoon, April 1, 2018 at 8:51 a.m.

    Zlatan, a 36 year old player up in age, had a knee injury a year ago, played very little in the fall, and hadn't played at all since December, has no game rhythm, flies to the West Coast from Europe taking about 9 hours, hasn't settled in, plays just less than 48hrs later and scores 2 goals within 10minutes ,with a one-touch of the ball, equally nice of which one is rarely seen scored in a game a side volley from 40yards out, all of which leads one to question the mediocrity of the MLS. 
    Talk about playing an effective, functional and efficient game. I don't think Zlatan needed to take a shower,for he didn't break a sweat.
    It is so nice to see a violin player perform, it reminds me of the days of the NASL when we imported so many violin players of the game, Beckenbauer, Cruyff, Pele, Best, Vava, Marsh, Rensenbrink, Cubillas, etc. Today we have tons of lumberjacks, piano carriers,(with all due respect to the profession)for players in the MLS. A player in the MLS  is considered to have a good game if he comes off the field with foam on his mouth, having lost 5 lbs. of body water, and leaving 10 divots on the fields.
    I felt bad for Zlatan for I noticed his teammates giving some great passes to the opponents, passes if seen in Europe would have followed by a chorus of Boo's. I mean, didn't anyone tell these players that your suppose to pass to someone wearing the same color jersey.
    We need more of these types of players coming from Europe in order for the crowds to get excited
    and see level of quality not offered by North American players.
    If you know Zlatan's backround, he grew playing 'STREET SOCCER'  as a major part of his development. You're basically watching a street soccer player playing pro-ball.
    We have to change the way we develop our players. The emphasis should be placed on INDIVIDUALITY instead TEAM play, when developing kids, for the emphasis on the latter has had a detrimental effect upon INDIVIDUALITY . Rinus Michels understood this for he took 11individuals who were formed primarily by street soccer and created one of the greatest teams ever. What is happening today is that the kids  go right away into team oriented thinking and playing and thus skipping the INDIVIDUAL stage, which in most cases is aided by coaches who weren't exacly technicians or great individuals of the game, but because they have a license are allowed to develop the kids in the wrong way, unfortunately.

  2. Jeffrey Kantor replied, April 1, 2018 at 9:30 a.m.

    I'm sorry but this is so wrong on so many levels, I hardly know where to start:

    Zlatan is a world class player and still has world class skills, and I can't count the number of times he has torched these extraordinary European players that Mr. Schoon is so inordinately fond of.

    Certainly, in Europe, in which the top teams spend as much on player salaries as on the entire MLS league, one would expect higher overall quality and it is true for the top 2 to 4 teams in each European league.

    After the big money teams, the drop off is so large that MLS top teams could (and have on occassion in friendlies) compete very well.

    In addition, the exhorbitant spending of the top European teams, as well as Mr. Schoon's beloved Cosmos, have done much to bankrupt other small market teams and to make most European leagues a joke, if you consider any sort of parity or competitiveness below the top few teams.

    To say the MLS is equivalent to a top European second division (which it certainly is) after 20 years, compared to 50 or 100 years of development in Europe, is a remarkable achievement of those 2 decades.  This development will continue, as long as MLS continues to be a remarkably well-managed business, and if US Soccer forgets about Euro-snob coach selections, and avoids disastrous coaches like Klinsmann that set our game back rather than moving it forward.

    So, I say keep your Euro-snobbery and go watch all the European soccer you want on TV, the MLS is doing just fine.

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, April 1, 2018 at 11:13 a.m.

    Jeffrey, Frank is not a Euro-snob. The extraordinary players he listed played in NASL. Some were European and some weren't. He mentioned Michals at Ajax, but that was an example of building a team through coaching and development, not by outspending other clubs. I don't see how anyone could hold an intelligent discussion about coaching without mentioning at least indirectly Michals at Ajax and Cruyff at Barcelona. It doesn't mean the speakers are Euro-snobs.

    You make some good points, but so did Frank, and nothing you said refutes what Frank said.

    I stopped watching MLS about the time Houston dominated the league with ugly football (made professional fouls its trademark). So I don't know whether play has improved or not, but it was pretty abysmal. It is a shame that the fans tolerated it. I will always chose playing well over winning through professional fouls.    

  4. Newman W Stemple replied, April 2, 2018 at 3:03 p.m.

    Can't you just enjoy the moment?  Wait, I have a better idea; why don't you just move back to Europe?

  5. Derek Mccracken, April 1, 2018 at 11:43 a.m.

    I read most of schoon's meandering, War & Peace commentary, but my eyes started glazing over after a while. I believe that his main premise is that an over-the-hill ex-superstar scoring in MLS means it's an uber-shitty league. I assume, by the same token, an over-the-hill ex-superstar, Rooney, scoring a 60-yard goal in the Premier League this season means its an uber-shitty league. The entire argument is a piece of garbage. Is MLS one of the top leagues in the world? Obviously not. Has it made great strides in the past few years? Definitely yes. Any Debbie Downer who wants to simply concentrate on the glass being half empty and write a long-winded diatribe dripping with negativity should seriously examine what in their life has made them such bitter, pessimistic people.

  6. Ric Fonseca replied, April 1, 2018 at 3:43 p.m.

    Derek, you most certainly hit the nail on the head and I couldn't agree with you more!  The first diatribe is just as you describe, a littany from someone who has been deeply embittered by US football-soccer, and why this is unless he fesses' up and tells us, we'll never know why his musings are so damned negative.
    Yes, I saw the entire game, and yes Ibra's first goal was very opportune, though I didn't read anything from Kennedy's article or Woitalla's that the LAFC played a dismal 2nd half game, thinking they had the game in the W column; simply put, Bradley did not warn his charges that the Carson Galaxy would come back firing with both barrels!  The LAFC just played an over confident second half, for crying out loud, and having now known Sigi since 1971 - from his days as a freshman at UCLA - it was just a matter of time that he would tell his guys to get their heads out from the plae where sun doesn't shine.  
    And know what else? Here's a silly conpiracy theory, now that the City of Angels has a true soccer "clasico-trafico":  Bradley and Schmid know each other very well and have coached against each other, so here goes: The two HC planned it that the first half would go to LAFC, and then the second one would go to the Carson Galaxy, with them inserting the jet-lagged Ibra (jet lagged? Yeah my foot! he came over in a private jet, resting in great comfort during his "nine-hour" transatlantic flight, so all he had to do was to get used to our gorgeous SoCal weather on Friday, and play the  2d half of the 2nd half...  So, he scores during a uncalled for "forced" GK errror, yup, I admit a nice empty net goalazo, but I betcha that his second goal was off-side, and niether of the tv commentators from Lalas and his side-kick said anything, nor the on-the-air guy either.  The subsequent replays shows him at least even with the last defender if not about one yard off-side at the time the ball was passed to him.  And yet, Geiger, who is going off to Russia, well, my question is, was he notified by the VAR folks of Ibra's off-side positioning?  Was there any communication with the VAR's and Eiger?  Can anyone answer this question?  Nah, 'cause even though SA calls this game one for the MLS history annals as one of the best, it was, IMHO, an off-side not called.... then again maybe Eiger's earpiece was turned off and the Ref was told to allow the goal.  Hmmmm, food for thought?  Still, I'm looking forward to the July 26 game to be played at the LAFC's place!!! 

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, April 1, 2018 at 7:04 p.m.

    Derek, "mediocre" (as in "mediocrity of MLS") means ordinary and middle of the road. It doesn't mean "uber-shitty".

  8. uffe gustafsson, April 1, 2018 at 2:46 p.m.

    Jeffery 100 percent w you on that one.
    and bob u just missed a very exciting game.
    and slatan is still the best striker in the world, only he scored goals like that and he done it many times over.
    MLS will get many viewers tuning in to watch his magic. My biggest wish finally came thru to be able to watch him at a game. June 30 we be there to watch the game.

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, April 1, 2018 at 7:10 p.m.

    I watched the highlights and agree with Ric. Zlatan looked offside on his first goal. I thought the assist to Pontius was the best play.

  10. Bob Ashpole replied, April 1, 2018 at 11:24 p.m.

    correction, his second goal.

  11. John Richardson, April 1, 2018 at 3 p.m.

    The Lion has roared

  12. Jeffrey Kantor replied, April 1, 2018 at 8:51 p.m.

    Last I checked Beckenbauer, Cruyff, Best, Marsh, and Rensenbrink played in Europe long before the MLS, and most of them came to the MLS for the Cosmos, which bankrupted the league.  I stand by my facts.

  13. Jeffrey Kantor replied, April 1, 2018 at 8:52 p.m.

    Sorry, NASL, not MLS.  But you get the point.

  14. Jeffrey Kantor replied, April 1, 2018 at 8:55 p.m.

    PS I do believe in more individual player development, in that I agree with Mr. Schoon, but that is quite different than trying to evaluate the MLS in the context of Europe as a professional league.  They have different economics, demographics, history, and cultures.

  15. Jeffrey Kantor replied, April 1, 2018 at 9:03 p.m.

    And for the last of my four last word attempts:

    There is the business side and there is the soccer side and BOTH are important.  The quality of play is the bottom line for fans as it should be, Mr. Schoon is absolutely correct in that.  However, MLS has improved its quality of play in its 20 years, while doubling in size.  Not many if any leagues can match that.

    Of course there are still some boring games (as in all professional leagues), but the excitement and the quality are there enough to make MLS a very watchable league.  The attendance figures are testament to that.  And the television revenue continues to grow, but viewing figures could definitely improve.  The US is a VERY tough television market, but the MLS demographic among the prime audience is great and that gives reason for much optimism.

  16. frank schoon replied, April 1, 2018 at 9:27 p.m.

    Jeffrey, Cubillas  played for Ft. Lauder  Strikers, Rodney Marsh played for Tampa Bay Rowdies,Cruyff signed to play with La Aztecs then went on to play for Wash. Diplmats, Rensenbrink played for a West Coast Team, Best first played for La Aztecs then was traded to play for San Diego or one of the west coast teams after Cruyff came to play for Aztecs. The NASL became bankrupt for there was not a fan base as yet...it was all new and therefore couldn't support the high player salaries. 
    I was not evaluating the MLS to the European professional league...that's a non starter. Yes, the MLS has improved in quality but more on a horizontal level. Our players developmentally has not improved in the past 50 years. Yes, it has improved in fan base, and the league has grown but as far as quality of soccer goes ...not much.

  17. John Soares, April 2, 2018 at 4:36 a.m.

    Great game, for the Galaxy. Excellent display for a first game.
    The season is young...Don't give him the MVP award just yet.
    No comment on LAFC total collpse?!

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