The LA Galaxy striker made a “big” impression with his teammates, in a very short amount of time.
Carson, CA. – LA Galaxy defender Dan Steres still remembers the first time he faced Didier Drogba of the Montreal Impact. Several well-placed elbows from the veteran of many of Europe’s biggest soccer wars let Steres know their meeting would not be for the faint of heart.
Former Galaxy player Steven Gerrard used to caution his teammates about getting into physical battles with the 6-foot-2 Drogba because it was a losing proposition.
Now comes along the Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the imposing, 6-5 Swedish giant with more than 30 European trophies to his credit. Friday marked his first day of training with his new Galaxy teammates and Steres was thankful.
And it wasn’t just because Ibrahimovic recently left Manchester United to join the five-time MLS Cup champions. Mostly it was because he won’t have to face him in game situations.
“Luckily I have to do it only in training, which will be good for me,” Steres said with a grin as he and the Galaxy made final preparations for Saturday’s first-ever showdown with inner-city rival Los Angeles FC at sold-out StubHub Center (noon, Fox).
“He’s a big guy. We expected that, but to see him up close and personal he’s a real big guy. It’s going to be tough for other teams to handle him.
“They’re going to have to figure that out.”
Ola Kamara, who figures to be Ibrahimovic’s striker partner in the Galaxy’s attack, said the Swede was as big in person as he thought he would be.
“He’s a huge guy,” he said with a grin. “Those proportions are accurate.”
Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid good-naturedly echoed those sentiments.
“Ibra is a player that I look up to,” he said, “mostly because he’s taller than me.”
Galaxy captain Ashley Cole has faced Ibrahimovic in the past and said he will be a welcome addition – “Bringing in a player like that, with his caliber, his personality I think not only is good for us but is good for the league,” he said – and turn out to be everything he’s advertised to be.
“He’s tough,” Cole said of the 36-year-old. “He’s a big guy, he’s strong, he’s fast and he can finish.
“Hopefully he’s fit and ready to go for us.”
Ibrahimovic, who arrived in Southern California on Thursday night and could see playing time Saturday, already has been welcomed to the Galaxy family, although most of those introductions were of the good-natured variety compliments of his new teammates.
“Sometimes it can be difficult, but he seems like one of the lads already and he’s been here three hours,” Cole said with a straight face. “We can beat him up a bit.
“He’s a great character, a great player and hopefully he can help this team win.”
Said Steres, “We just welcomed him to the team like we do anyone else. He’s one of our group now and we’re looking forward to moving ahead with him.
“He wins everywhere he goes and he scores goals.”