After an empty two-match road swing, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Los Angeles Galaxy look to build on their perfect home record Saturday when they host New York City FC.
The Galaxy (7-1-3), who had conceded just eight goals in their first nine matches, were done in by a former player Wednesday night when Gyasi Zardes scored a goal and set up a second to power the Crew to a 3-1 victory. It also spoiled Galaxy coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s return to Columbus, where helped the Crew win the 2008 MLS Cup as a player.
Daniel Steres helped Los Angeles avoid a shutout on 87 minutes, though Ibrahimovic was unlucky twice in the second half. He had a downward header pushed out by Crew keeper Zack Steffen with the score 1-0, and a second effort hit the crossbar.
Los Angeles, which has taken the maximum 18 points from its six home matches while outscoring opponents 13-6, could give winger Favio Alvarez his debut in this match. Alvarez, signed on loan from Atletico Tucuman in Argentina’s Primera Division on Tuesday, could give the Galaxy some much-needed wide scoring options as much of their offense has consisted of pumping crosses into the penalty area and hoping Ibrahimovic gets to them.
“Favio is a talented and dynamic attacking player who will be a valuable addition to our roster,” said Galaxy general manager Dennis te Kloese told the club’s official website. “He has a versatile skillset that will allow him to play multiple positions in our attack. We think he can be a dangerous option for our club this season and we look forward to adding him to the team.”
Ibrahimovic, who has factored on 11 of Los Angeles’ 18 goals with nine goals and two assists, has 22 goals and five assists in 20 home matches since joining the Galaxy last year. The towering Swede has seven in five contests at StubHub Center in 2019.
New York City FC (3-6-1) stretched its unbeaten streak to six matches (3-3-0) following its 2-0 victory at Montreal last Saturday. Maxmiliano Moralez and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi scored on either side of halftime, and Sean Johnson did not need to make a save to record his third shutout in four matches and fifth clean sheet overall.
The switch by NYCFC coach Dome Torrent to a back five has paid immediate dividends, with the Boys in Blue also looking for their third straight shutout on the road.
“When you change the system and you are able to win, then you play with more confidence,” he told the club’s official website. “Sometimes you have to change something to improve. When the results are much better, everyone has confidence in the system.”
This match will also be a reunion for Torrent and Ibrahimovic, whose paths crossed at Barcelona from 2009-11 while Torrent was an assistant for Pep Guardiola. Though the Swede was never found of Guardiola’s style, Torrent is well aware of Ibrahimovic’s quality.
“I have good memories from Barcelona of this player because I worked one year with him, it’s my opinion that Ibra is one of the best strikers in the past 20 years for me,” Torrent said. “It’s always impossible to mark this player because he has quality – he has the quality to attack the spaces, keep the ball, score, and assist.”
(Diego Polenta photo courtesy LA Galaxy official Twitter account)
(Domenec Torrent photo courtesy New York City FC official Twitter account)