Zlatan Ibrahimovic marked his one year anniversary with the Los Angeles Galaxy in impressive fashion. The prolific Swedish striker won a pair of penalties and converted both of them in just his second match of the season, as the Galaxy downed the Portland Timbers 2-1 on Sunday night. He now has 25 goals in 29 MLS games over the past year and, when he’s healthy, he’s one of the most feared players in the league.
That healthy part has been the issue. Ibrahimovic went the full 90 minutes in the season opener against the Chicago Fire, but he then sat out the next two matches of the season, including a home game against Minnesota United. Lingering leg problems have been a theme for Ibrahimovic over the last couple of years. They began with a knee injury at Manchester United in 2017 and they haven’t completely gone away. This season it’s his Achilles tendon causing problems.
He returned to action and went the distance on Sunday, but both the Galaxy coaching staff and Ibrahimovic himself were keeping a close eye on his fitness as the game went on.
“I saw somebody kick him, but I expected that he play 90 minutes, he was ready, we were talking, we discussed that with him, what does he feel,” head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto told reporters after the match.
“I don’t want to put on the field someone who is not 100 percent. I talked to him, nobody forced me to put him on the field, nobody forced him to go to the field, so we need to be smart, because he’s coming from the injury. And he said yesterday ‘I feel good to play; I am ready.’ And, it was true, because he scored twice, two penalties, and he was very dangerous like he is.”
Zlatan also felt good about his health. He never showed any signs of injury and never wanted to come out of the game. His performance also never let up. After scoring twice he almost put the game away in the dying minutes with what would have been an impressive finish in the 89th minute.
“We said, as long as I can go, I go,” Ibrahimovic said afterwards. “We had the communication from the sideline and they asked me all the time, how is it, how is it. Every time I said, all good, all good and I kept going.”
The next step forward for Ibrahimovic is playing on turf on a regular basis, which he may get the chance to do Friday night when the Galaxy travel to Vancouver. He only played on turf twice all of last season. He went the full 90 minutes in Minnesota in the penultimate game of last season and played quite well. He had a goal and an assist in a 3-1 win that kept the Galaxy in the playoff hunt at the time. The other appearance came much earlier in the season. It was an 18-minute substitute appearance in Portland that came three days after he played a full game on home soil.
“I have no problem with turf fields and last season was special because of my knee injury, which people forgot because I was playing every game almost and I was feeling good,” he said. “Coming into a new season, I feel fresh, I feel good, but I have this issue with my Achilles, but it was feeling good today and let’s see during the week what happens. If I feel like I do today, I’m present, so all the fans can come and enjoy.”