Carson, CA. – Zlatan Ibrahimovic was expected to have a major impact on the LA Galaxy, but this is ridiculous.
“This” being a sensational performance in last Saturday’s inaugural showdown with inner-city rival Los Angeles FC at StubHub Center. All the Swedish international, who arrived in Southern California just two days earlier, did was score two goals, including one of the spectacular variety, to help his new club rally for an improbable 4-3 victory.
Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid was asked if Ibrahimovic’s debut had surpassed even his greatest expectations.
“Do you expect him to score a goal like that in the first game? You’d probably say no,” Schmid said after training Thursday. Ibrahimovic had two brilliant goals, including one from at least 40 yards and the other on a point-blank header that won it in stoppage time. “But are you shocked? No. I’m not shocked just because of what he’s done in the past, his persona, his belief and the aura that he brings.
“You expect great things to happen. With other players you say, ‘OK, hopefully something great will happen.’ With Ibra it’s more you expect great things to happen. It’s just a question of when.”
Ibrahimovic turns 37 in early October, but Schmid said one thing he possesses should override any concerns about age affecting his ability.
“Experience makes you more consistent,” he said. “Sometimes you lose your youthful exuberance and a little bit of your pace, but your experience makes up for it because you become a little more consistent, a little smarter and you let your brain do what your body used to do.”
Midfielder Chris Pontius, who scored the Galaxy’s second goal last Saturday, admitted he has taken great pleasure in watching replays of the Galaxy’s stunning comeback, but he was even more proud of the way the team rebounded from such a huge deficit.
“The way we came back was pretty special,” he said. “I thought the way we started the second half, even though we gave up the own goal, I thought we were on the front foot. I don’t think it was all bad.
“We put a lot of energy into the second half. I think they put a lot of energy into the first half, so I thought you saw them getting a little tired in the second half and we took advantage of that.
“I just didn’t want to go down in that fashion,” he continued. “We certainly gave the fans a good show in the second half.”
The Galaxy received some positive news on the injury front Thursday.
Defender Michael Ciani (abdominal strain) and Jonathan dos Santos (hamstring), both of whom have missed playing time this season, returned to full training and likely will be ready to go for Sunday’s game against Sporting Kansas City at StubHub Center (6 p.m., Fox Sports 1).
Another player who also trained and should be available was midfielder Romain Alessandrini, who has had his own hamstring problems. Midfielder Sebastian Lletget, who last Saturday scored his first goal for the Galaxy since July 31, 2016 in a 1-1 tie in Seattle, was held out of training Thursday after being stepped on during the match against LAFC. Schmid, however, said he expected him to return to practice Friday.
Giovani dos Santos, who also has had a sore hamstring, did not train and his status for Sunday was unclear.
Ibrahimovic has had a decisive impact not only on the Galaxy but on the team store at StubHub Center.
Senior retail manager Sean Bell Sr. said the store has sold more than 1,000 Ibrahimovic T-shirts and jerseys since the Swedish standout arrived last week.
“It seems this is what soccer is supposed to look and feel like,” Bell said. “It’s a new height for MLS, for American soccer, period.
“The bar has been raised and we just have to ride the wave.”
Bell, who has been working at the store since 2011, said the store received more foot traffic almost from the moment Ibrahimovic arrived in Southern California. The buzz continued after last week’s press conference and then reached another level with last Saturday’s thrilling showdown against LAFC at sold-out StubHub Center.
Bell said the last time he experienced such an electric atmosphere was on Jan. 22, 2006, when he was working at Staples Center and witnessed the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant score 81 points in the team’s 122-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
“That was a constant buildup,” he said. “But this was an explosion.
“Ibra was like a tidal wave or earthquake, like a natural occurrence that happened and a sudden explosion where everybody is gravitating to it. It created a whole new universe.”