King of LA (already): Zlatan leads comeback

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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As far as seminal moments go in the history of MLS, it’s impossible to say at this moment just how impactful Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s storybook larger-than-life debut will be as the league continues its ascent up the global footballing totem pole, but for one day at least, Zlatan has been crowned King of Los Angeles… and in record time.

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Ibrahimovic, who only arrived in LA on Thursday, came off the bench with 20 minutes left to play, and the Galaxy trailing their newest rivals, Los Angeles FC, 3-1 on Saturday. Two minutes later, it was 3-2; Six minutes later, it was 3-3, courtesy of Ibrahimovic’s stunning run-of-the-mill 40-yard side-volley (WATCH HERE); Fifteen minutes after that, it was Ibrahimovic who headed home — from a questionably offside position — the game-winner in the first minute of stoppage time. 4-3 would be the final.

So lopsided were the proceedings early on — not only on the scoreboard, but in the run of play — that early in the second half the sizable contingent of away fans began chanting Ole! with every pass completed to anyone wearing black and gold. Banter. (Of course, this backfired almost immediately as LAFC unnecessarily gave the ball away deep inside their own half and watched as Sebastian Lletget fired home seconds later to give the Galaxy — and Ibrahimovic — a taste of blood.)

Bob Bradley‘s men showed no mercy through the game’s first 55 minutes, as LAFC raced out to an early 1-0 lead through Carlos Vela (WATCH HERE), who then made it 2-0 not long before the half-hour mark. Marco Ureña forced Daniel Steres into a comical own goal three minutes into the second half, and that appeared to be that.

So here were the Galaxy, missing three of their most important, influential players — Romain Alessandrini, Jonathan dos Santos and Giovani dos Santos — three, and then two, goals down to the upstart franchise that spent all of last summer and winter taunting MLS’s 2017 last-place finishers.

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Head coach Sigi Schmid did the only logical thing: he summoned the only man in MLS history who truly believes he could singlehandedly change the outcome of a game as frenzied and hyped as Saturday’s El Trafico.

The home fans began chanting his name minutes before he entered the game in the 71st minute. After the game, he would say, “They were saying, ‘We want Zlatan, we want Zlatan,’ so I gave them Zlatan.”

It’s often said that superstar athletes have big egos due to the fact one must fully and truly believe in oneself in order to reach the highest level of their craft. Zlatan has that belief, and with good reason, as exhibited on Saturday.