Currently in menacing form, Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks to help the Los Angeles Galaxy gain three critical points in their bid for home-pitch advantage in the playoffs as they face the Seattle Sounders on Sunday in the Pacific Northwest.
Love him or loathe him, there is no denying the towering striker has saved his best play since arriving in MLS last year for the Galaxy’s biggest moments – walking the walk after most certainly talking the talk. The Swede is tied for second in the league in scoring with 22 goals and is blistering form with braces in three consecutive games.
The most recent one came Sunday in the second installment of the “El Traffico” derby as the Galaxy (13-11-3) and Supporters’ Shield frontrunners LAFC played to a wild 3-3 draw. Ibrahimovic had his brace in the first quarter-hour during a goal-scoring frenzy in which Los Angeles took a 3-1 lead after 16 minutes before being pegged back on goals by Latif Blessing and MLS goals leader Carlos Vela.
The result left the Galaxy fourth in the West on 42 points, one back of both Real Salt Lake and Seattle (12-8-7) for second.
“I think the first half was good, we did very good. We had a couple chances more to score, then conceded the second goal that was too cheap, I think, and we made simple mistakes,” Ibrahimovic noted. “In the second, we were doing the opposite of what we should have done, because when you get tired, you need to make it easy for yourself, you need to play easy, but we made it difficult, we lost too many balls, and we got even more tired, and we were under pressure the whole game. They scored the third, and then.. we were just defending.”
Cristian Pavon also scored his first goal since joining the Galaxy on loan right before the close of the transfer window. The Argentina international has been a quick study – also registering two assists in his first four matches – in providing a sorely needed strike partner with Ibrahimovic in attack.
“With Zlatan you all know we always try to find each other, and do a give and go play, or try to do whatever is best for the team,” Pavon said. “With him I am always trying to find the space and find a give and go, and today I was able assist on his goal and I’m happy and hopeful we can continue to score more goals. And with Favio (Alvarez), you all know I know him since we were young, and the truth is every game that passes and every day that passes we understand each other more.”
Seattle (12-8-7), which nicked a point off the Galaxy in Los Angeles with a 2-2 draw Aug. 17, wrapped up a three-game road swing with four of nine possible points after defeating Portland 2-1 on Aug. 23. Raul Ruidiaz set up Cristian Roldan’s goal in the 22nd minute before turning scorer two minutes after the restart as the Sounders grabbed three key points from their Cascadia rivals.
“The bus ride back was pretty fun, the guys were all in good spirits,” Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said. “Even today, still, guys are still feeling a little bit of mental relief, a little bit of satisfaction I would say at beating our arch-rival. Lots of emotions, it was an emotional game.”
The match in Los Angeles was unsettled from the start as Galaxy defender Daniel Steres was sent off in the sixth minute for taking down Ruidiaz as the last defender, but the match did not come to life until the Peru international and Ibrahimovic traded goals in the final minutes of the first half.
Ibrahimovic converted a penalty on 66 minutes to give the Galaxy the lead, but they could not hold out with 10 men as keeper David Bingham’s save off a shot by Jordan Morris deflected into the net off defender Jorgen Skjelvik in the 82nd minute.
(Zlatan Ibrahimovic photo courtesy Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports)