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By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

Zlatan Too Much For LAFC

LAFC Squander 3-0 Lead, Fall to Galaxy 4-3


LA Galaxy - MLS

Zlatan Ibrahimovic leaps for joy following first MLS goal

There's no doubt about it, Los Angeles just rebranded the "major" in Major League Soccer. The inaugural match between the brand new upstart Los Angeles Football Club and the well-established Los Angeles Galaxy was Hollywood scripting at its best. It was fast and furious with immediate international star implications.

LAFC came out firing on all cylinders grabbing a 3-0 lead before the force known as Zlatan ignited his new Galaxy teammates and the pitch at StubHub Center in the City of Carson like few can. The stadium erupted when Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the winning goal on a classic header past the 90th minute to give the Galaxy a remarkable 4-3 comeback victory.

"I think I heard: "We want Zlatan. We want Zlatan." And I gave them Zlatan. So they were pushing me and I was just giving back. So, fantastic support," said Ibrahimovic who entered the game in the 71st minute. "My history after when I come to a new team I always score in the first games... So I wouldn't let it down this time. I won't. I had to score."

Visiting LAFC, sporting their already popular black and gold uniforms, jumped all over the Galaxy from the opening whistle at StubHub on Saturday afternoon, March 31. Forward Carlos Vela curled a beautiful shot in the top left corner of the goal in minute-5 to give LAFC a 1-0 lead with an assist by defender Steven Beitashour.

21 minutes later Vela scored his second goal courtesy of timely passes from forwards Marco Ureña and Diego Rossi. Vela evaded Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham, pivoted counter-clockwise left of the goalkeeper's box and glanced the ball off the crossbar into the goal for a 2-0 LAFC lead. There was little doubt which L.A. team was attacking with freedom in the first half.

"I think the team started off very well, but then we didn't know how to manage the game. More than them winning the game, we lost it. With a 3-0 lead, we shouldn't lose," stated Vela.

LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley: "Carlos has been excellent. Early in the second half they were man marking him and we were trying to find some ways that we can move the ball better and get him involved."

"The most important thing for us is that there are moments in football games where as a group you have to be resilient. The first two games went our way."

Things seemed to go LAFC's way when they took a 3-0 lead on an own-goal by Galazy defender Daniel Steres caused by Ureña's pressure and lateral kick just outside right of the goal. The Galaxy controlled possession of the ball but LAFC controlled the scoreboard. Having joined the team just two days earlier Zlatan was still on the bench spurring speculation as to if he would even enter the game with a 3-goal deficit.

Midfielder Sebastian Lletget breathed life into the Galaxy in the 61st minute with a short quick shot from a steal and assist by midfielder Servando Carrasco. 10 minutes later Lletget was replaced by Zlatan on cue. The Galaxy faithful roared with approval anticipating something special from 19-year international star as the momentum shifted to the home team.

And Zlatan delivered. Sparked by the substitution, the Galaxy and forward Chris Pontius cut the deficit to one with a flying header in front of the goal off a perfect cross by midfielder Emmanuel Boateng in the 73rd minute. Four minutes later Zlatan put his special touch on the game and the league that reverberated across the soccer world.

Steres, making amends for his earlier own-goal miscue, launched a deep header past left midfield. Zlatan let the ball bounce once and fired a 40-something-yard blast over retrieving and stunned LAFC goaltender Tyler Miller into the back of the net. Zlatan ripped off his jersey and celebrated his debut goal with teammates in tow. The 3-3 tie seemed like a lead for the Galaxy.

"I saw the goalkeeper, he was out and I said I will shoot it over, but it was all depending how do I shoot. Do I shoot high or in front to put power on it? I chose the power way and it went in," said Zlatan.

14 minutes later Zlatan created pure magic with his game-clinching header as time was winding down in the 91st minute. Defender Ashley Cole placed a cross from the left corner to Zlatan who headed the ball with swift justice into the back of the LAFC goal. StubHub turned into one big Zlatan party, savoring the improbable 4-3 comeback victory.

"Everything went well for them. They scored a goal and with Zlatan coming in, their morale was high. The fans got excited and everything went their way to get a win," said Vela. "We can't fall into their game, we should have reacted a different way and we weren't able to."

LAFC midfielder Benny Feilhaber: "We are very disappointed and we know what kind of team LA Galaxy are. There is a reason why they have won so many championships. We took our foot off the gas and we paid for it."

It was LAFC's first bloody lip of their short three-game history as they had started the season with two road wins. LAFC, with six points in the league standings, is now tied for fourth place in the MLS Western Conference with Minnesota United FC. The Galaxy win put them in third place with seven points behind conference leaders Sporting Kansas City and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.


LAFC players thank their supporters at StubHub Center

LAFC has three more games on the road before they host the Seattle Sounders FC in the much-anticipated inaugural home opener on Sunday, April 29 in their brand new state-of-the-art Banc of California Stadium adjacent to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

LAFC travels to play Atlanta United FC this Saturday, then off to Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Friday, April 13 before ending its six-game opening road trip at the Montreal Impact on Saturday, April 21. LAFC then entertains a four-game home stand against Seattle, FC Dallas, Minnesota and New York City FC through May 13.

One thing is certain, the Los Angeles Football Club franchise is a blessing for the game and exactly what the Los Angeles Galaxy and Major League Soccer needed to step up their game... and more importantly the appeal to the majority of the nation's sports fans who have been forever lukewarm to the world's most popular game.


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