CARSON, Calif. – Sunday’s Galaxy game against the Portland Timbers at Dignity Health Sports Park (6 p.m., ESPN2) marks the one-year anniversary of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s stunning debut with the five-time MLS Cup champions.
The 4-3 victory over Los Angeles FC included two scoring strikes from Ibrahimovic, the first one arguably the most memorable goal of the 2018 Major League Soccer season, and kicked off an impressive debut for the Swedish international.
The 37-year-old understandably had plenty to talk about Friday, but his time wasn’t spent so much on his first year wearing Galaxy blue and gold. It was more about an injury that has kept him sidelined since the first game of this season.
A sore left Achilles tendon prevented him from training until this past Tuesday, and he was unclear about his status for Sunday.
“I’ve been training two, three days with the team and day by day we’re making an evaluation how are things and how I feel,” he told reporters. “But it’s going better. I’m feeling more and more confident.
“Tomorrow is another day and we’ll see where we’re at.”
Ibrahimovic then was asked if he could play the full 90 minutes against Portland, and he was non-committal.
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” he replied. “This is a question you have to wait and see during the game, if I play or I’m not playing.”
Ibrahimovic said he felt tightness in the tendon during a season-opening, 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire on March 2, but he did not want to be substituted because he was intent on starting the season on a winning note.
It turned out to be a painful decision.
“It was growing,” he said of the discomfort in his heel. “At the end it was too painful, but I kept playing because I had too much adrenaline and I knew I would score. I didn’t want to step out and I wanted to win the first game. I stayed but I had a lot of pain.
“This is what I go through now. Take time, recover well and play well.”
Ibrahimovic said he wasn’t sure about his level of fitness, but he did say he felt “good.”
“It’s all about how long you can keep it, and that I don’t know,” he said. “You have to find out about that when you’re playing … this is nothing I can say.
“I can hold out 20, 30, 40 or 90 minutes. We have to wait and see.”
Ibrahimovic made one thing clear regarding this weekend’s match.
“If I feel good enough I’m playing,” he said. “If I don’t feel good enough I’m not playing.”
And about that anniversary with the Galaxy …
“I’m happy I can play football,” he said when asked about the best and worst memories of his first year in MLS. “That was the main thing. I was happy I was able to do what I always do. Going out and playing with the ball, feeling the grass … that I think was the best part.
“The worst part,” he went on, “was the serious stuff. We didn’t make it to the playoffs. We were fighting for fifth or sixth place. I don’t fight for those places. I fight for number one.”
NO LONGER HAMSTRUNG
Another Galaxy player eager to get back on the field is Romain Alessandrini, who has been sidelined since hurting his right hamstring just 20 minutes into the win over Chicago.
He returned to full training this week and said he felt “great.”
“A bit tired,” he added with a laugh, “because I worked so hard to come back. The last two weeks were good for me, and hopefully this weekend I’m going to play and see what happens.”
The 29-year-old Frenchman said he wasn’t sure if he was fit enough to play – “We’ll see what the coach decides,” he added – but he won’t be holding back if he gets a chance.
“I’m going to give everything I have,” he said. “It should be good for me to come back.”
The hamstring was the same one he injured a year ago, and he agreed he might have been a bit unlucky regarding recurring injuries.
“I think so, I think so,” he agreed with a reporter. “Every day I try to give the best I have. My body feels good, but sometimes you can’t control everything. Sometimes things like that happen.
“I just need to move forward and think about my future and things are going well.”
Not to mention quicker. The trio was dynamic in a recent victory over Minnesota United and could have a similar impact in Sunday’s match.
“The game against Dallas” – a 2-0 loss on March 9 – “I think everything was too soon,” Lletget said. “We didn’t have a clear idea. Then we had a full week to prepare against Minnesota and I thought it made that much of a difference. Our spacing and the way we moved for each other I thought was everything.
“We just have to keep building on that, not being scared of getting the ball and helping each other out and I thought we did that against Minnesota. We have to do it again on Sunday.
“We keep building on that and I think we’ll be very effective, especially with Ibra back in. With Romain I think it will be even better.”