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Zlatan Ibrahimovic could play against LAFC

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And why the rivalry against the LA Galaxy has reached a new level.

Manchester United v Burnley - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

I have several thoughts about Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining the LA Galaxy, as widely reported by reputable sources on Thursday, and after Manchester United officially canceled his contract, paving the way for it to happen. I was just going to tweet them out and then realized...wait a sec, I’ve got a platform to write more than 280 characters!

Ibrahimovic is set to be announced on Friday by the Galaxy, according to the aforementioned reports, and while I first wondered why they would do it then and not next week, just before the Galaxy play Los Angeles Football Club for the first time, the reason is this (per Grant Wahl):

Ibrahimovic has been recovering from an injury, but SI.com was told it is possible he could be available in the Galaxy squad for its March 31 intracity rivalry showdown against LAFC...

Oh...That’s one way to overshadow LAFC.

Now, I think the timing is probably a combination of being coincidental and very much calculated. In the former category, the last Manchester United star to come to MLS was Bastian Schweinsteiger, to the Chicago Fire last year. Schweinsteiger’s contract was canceled by Man United on Mar. 21, so almost exactly a year ago to the day. I wonder if there’s some kind of reason Man United hang onto these players until late March, possibly for financial reasons, or Jose Mourinho gets tired of them this time of year once and for all, or whatever. But that could be a driving factor (or just a total coincidence).

Leaving all that aside, the timing of this is pretty killer for the Galaxy in the context of the rivalry with LAFC. Hosting the first derby game and having not only the signing of Zlatan but also the possibility of him hitting the field in the game is going to draw A LOT of eyeballs, and will definitely overshadow the buzz LAFC had been building after their successful branding, efforts to build a fanbase before starting play, and then actually starting well, with a 2-0-0 start to MLS play.

So what can LAFC do here to respond? Assuming Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be unveiled on Tuesday, I think it comes down to this:

  • Bide their time until the game and until Banc of California Stadium opens. The opening of the stadium and the home games will help wrestle the battle of eyeballs and hearts back to LAFC this season
  • Beat the Galaxy in the first (fingers crossed, every) meeting

I know Zlatan has a force of personality that changes how the planets align and everything, but I’d wager he won’t start against LAFC, instead coming off the bench for a 15-20 minute stint at the end of the game. If LAFC beat the Galaxy, attention will still be on his debut, but it will be heavily, heavily muted. Also, there’s a chance that he wouldn’t play at all, and that plus defeating the Galaxy at their stadium would be a way to take the local narrative back on what the Galaxy hope is a coronation day.

Ultimately, we’ll see. Maybe Zlatan plays against LAFC, maybe he doesn’t. Maybe the expansion team wins the first meeting, maybe the old school team wins, maybe neither does. But expect to hear a lot about the Galaxy in the coming days. At this point, LAFC can ride that out by taking all three points a week from Saturday.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!