CARSON, Calif. – There is no disputing Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s talent, just as there is no questioning he plays with a certain edge to his game.
Not only is the imposing Swede one of Major League Soccer’s most physical players – pretty much a given, considering he stands 6 feet 5 and weighs 210 pounds – but he’s also one of its most emotional, a trait he’s having trouble keeping under control.
“I mean, he’s an interesting character,” the Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget told Spectrum SportsNet’s Megan Reza Kazemi after last Saturday’s 2-0 victory over FC Cincinnati. “But obviously, he likes to get his goals and stuff like that.
“We’re all happy for the win, but he’s an emotional guy, and he seems to show it a bit too much at times, but that’s him.”
Ibrahimovic’s temper was on full display during last Saturday’s match in which he went scoreless and even led to a post-game incident, confirmed by one team source, in which he damaged the visitors’ locker room out of frustration.
“I broke a lot of stuff after the game, the whole locker room I broke,” he revealed to reporters after training Thursday as the club prepared for Saturday’s California Clasico against the much-improved San Jose Earthquakes at Stanford Stadium (7 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet). “They had to call the ambulance because three players were laying down in a coma. I apologized for the ambulance because I made them work.”
All kidding aside, Ibrahimovic said the problem lies not with an increasing failure for teammates to get him the ball enough but with the pressure he puts on himself.
“That’s my game,” he said. “I did it everywhere … (Manchester) United, Juventus, Barcelona, (AC) Milan. That’s the environment I came from.
“I come here because I want a lot. I don’t come here to relax. That’s who I am, and so far I won 33 trophies. That’s probably more than MLS altogether. I know what I’m doing.”
Trying to stay patient, he admitted, is an ongoing problem, one with which he has no current solution.
“I come from a different game,” he said. “I’m here one year, so you adjust. When you play 25 years on a level that is very intense, very high, it becomes natural and automatic. Then when you try and do it here, it doesn’t come as direct and intense as it normally did.
“I just have to adjust and be patient. I’m still learning and adjusting. It’s difficult to bring MLS to a level I came from. It takes time.”
The bottom line, he said, is patience.
“I think in the game I need to have more because I have a lot of will. I want a lot, and I play with a lot of emotion,” he said. “I want to do a lot of things, but sometimes it’s impossible to do that.
“If you’re patient, the ball will come, as long as you keep moving, keep creating and keep being focused and be on your toes. Things will come. Maybe they don’t come the first two, three times but you need to be ready.
“The guys are trying and they’re doing their best,” he continued. “The same for me. I’m also trying. Sometimes it goes, sometimes not.”
Argentinian Favio Alvarez, a first-time visitor to Los Angeles, said he loves it in Southern California despite being in the area for a little over a month. The midfielder’s happiness in his new surroundings has been reflected in his play for the five-time MLS Cup champions with two goals and an assist in five games.
“I’m very happy with him,” head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said. “Very happy.”
“It was a big surprise,” he said. “It’s a very dynamic game. There’s no pause, and it’s very physical. Not like in Argentina, where it’s more tactical, a slower game.
“There’s a lot of intensity here … that’s been one of the biggest things.”
Adjusting to a new league, not to mention a new country, hasn’t been difficult as one might have feared.
“I prepared myself to adapt quickly,” he said, “and the confidence from the coaches and my teammates has helped with that.
“I’m happy to start like this, but this is just a start. This is a big challenge, and I just hope things keep getting better. I hope we continue to come together and achieve our goals.”
A CLASSIC MATCHUP
Saturday marks the first edition of this year’s California Clasico between the Galaxy and San Jose, and Schelotto said he can’t wait.
“It’s a very important three points for us,” he said. “I think it will be very emotional for us and them because it’s a derby. There will be a lot of people, maybe 50 (thousand) or 60,000 people in the stadium. I think everyone will be very excited to play.
“These are the kinds of games everyone wants to play and coach in.”
Ibrahimovic said he hopes the atmosphere will be similar to that of last year’s matchup at Stanford Stadium, which attracted a crowd of more than 50,743 and ended in a 3-3 tie.
“The fans enjoyed the game, and hopefully this time it’s the same atmosphere, a full stadium and a better result for us,” he said.
Ibrahimovic added no one on the team has talked to him this week about the rivalry, long regarded as one of the most bitter in MLS.
“They did last year when we went there the first time,” he said. “This week, nothing.”J