Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates his first goal for the LA Galaxy. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Well, we all know about Hollywood endings, but how about Hollywood beginnings?
The great Zlatan Ibrahimovic put on a show in his MLS debut that was ripped out of an improbable movie script that very few people would believe.
How would you describe his first game with the LA Galaxy?
Or perhaps there are no words to describe what he accomplished.
The hype around Zlatan for the first game of the LA rivalry — called El Traffico — between the Galaxy and the LA Football Club was well off the charts. In only 19 minutes, the Swede just put it into another orbit.
As for the movie script, would you believe this?
The upstart, expansion team that hasn’t played in its home stadium yet takes a 3-0 advantage against the established side that has won five MLS Cups and has been around the league since Day One.
In the 71st minute, this 36-year-old guy named Zlatan, who made his reputation as a big-time player in Europe, comes into the game and everything changes.
At that juncture, the Galaxy enjoyed a 3-1 lead.
Then Chris Pontius, that Red Bulls nemesis when he toiled with the Philadelphia Union, headed one home in the 73rd minute.
Then Zlatan didn’t take center stage, he took over the StubHub Center and probably most of Carson, Calif.
Some 45 yards out on the left flank, he noticed that LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller was off his line and he decided to smash a line drive into the upper right corner.
And that’s not goal of the week material, that’s goal of the year stuff.
The clincher? Zlatan scores off a header that is barely onside barely a minute into stoppage time to lift the Galaxy to a stunning 4-3 triumph in front of a full house and a national TV audience.
Stuff that marketing executives dream of.
BTW, Zlatan is averaging a goal every 9 1/2 minutes in his short MLS career. I doubt he will be able to keep that pace up, but I have a strange inkling he will cause excitement every time he steps onto the field.
Now, I consider myself quite fortunate during a long career writing about the beautiful game, having watched some of the greatest players to grace the soccer pitch.
Just to name a few.
I have witnessed some stupefying performances, accomplishments and goals.
But never did I ever watch the such a debut for an American soccer team as Zlatan Ibrahimovic did Saturday afternoon.
And perhaps I won’t ever again.
I am just going to enjoy the show and the ride.