Did you think I wasn’t going to talk about Zlatan? Come on. MLS got Zlataned over the weekend. Ibrahimovic came on to the field with LA Galaxy down a goal with 15 minutes left in El Trafico against LAFC. By now you should know what he did - Zlatan hit a 30 yard volley to tie the game and then got the game winner on a header not without controversy - as some said he looked offside - to make LAFC the best MLS expansion team to ever lose a three goal lead.
I’m not going to not link what is as of this writing the 3rd highest voted goal ever on r/soccer:
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's @MLS debut goal for @LAGalaxy is a Classic.— Football Vines (@FootballVines) April 1, 2018
For all the criticism MLS gets, or got, for being a retirement league, Zlatan offers a lot for the league. On top of still obviously being a capable player, he has the kind of media magnetism that is lacking in MLS. David Beckham got a lot of attention, but Zlatan can turn a phrase and get attention in ways that the league’s first DP didn’t.
Here’s what he said on twitter after the game:
And you brought me for free again https://t.co/pMOlGk5H0C— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) April 1, 2018
The man is a real life Chuck Norris joke - this is the kind of thing that gets headlines beyond box scores and what the league is doing on the field. MLS has never really had a larger than life sports personality that can bring fans to the league just for the spectacle of what they might say to reporters after the game. Zlatan has the ability to do that, here’s what he said after the game: “I heard the crowd saying ‘We want Zlatan, we want Zlatan. So I gave them Zlatan. They were pushing me and I was giving back.’” We got Zlatan.
Aside from LA, this was a bit of a weird weekend in MLS. There were some unexpected wins with the parity of the league peering through after it seemed like the teams who had been spending on TAM players were getting an edge over the rest of the league.
Anyway, here’s how the Americans at home did...
A brace for Jozy against RSL: America’s favorite striker, Jozy Altidore, stepped up for his club team and managed a brace against Real Salt Lake in their 3-1 victory on Friday night. For his part Michael Bradley completed 84 passes with an 86% completion rate and Marky Delgado, fresh off of his solid showing for the USMNT, came off just before the hour mark. Clint Irwin got the nod in goal ahead of Alex Bono who had spent the last week and a half with Delgado with the national team.
On the other side, Mike Petke seemed set to
park the bus play a more defensive lineup with a 4-5-1 formation that featured winger Brooks Lennon at right back. Yeah, me neither. It really didn’t work as the TFC attack was effective at creating chances and still had 19 shots and 8 shots on goal. While Altidore converted his penalty, Nick Rimando did manage to save one taken by Sebastian Giovinco in the 15th minute. His effort was wasted somewhat when 21 year old American Justin Glad felled Altidore in the box in the 22nd minute leading to the first goal of the game on the following PK. Aside from that Rimando spent a lot of time watching his defense get picked a part and retrieved the ball out of the net all night and Kyle Beckerman went the full 90 at least.
Seven goal outburst in Orlando: Every now and then, meaning kinda often, Jesse Marsch takes a team on the road and plays his backups hoping they can hold on for dear life until he puts in his starters around the 60 or 75th minute to find a equalizer or winner. On Saturday in Orlando the New York Red Bulls sat most of what would be thought of as their best 11 - meaning Tyler Adams and Tim Parker were both on the bench. But that meant that 21 year-old Tommy Redding got to play center back against his old team, to the tune of NYRB shipping four goals to OCSC. Aaron Long came off the bench and scored a center back special on a header that tied the game at 3-3 in the 83rd minute.
For their part, Orlando had nearly their whole squad available. Americans Dom Dwyer and Sacha Kljestan put together a decent match with Dwyer notching a brace and Sacha getting an assist. Despite OCSC re-hauling their backline, keeper Joe Bendik watched the ball go in the net three times - but Orlando scored four of their own and earned a needed home win.
Upset in Columbus: Nobody tell Rob Usry, but Gyasi Zardes scored again, he now has a goal for ever 112 minutes he’s played in the year and is looking very comfortable at center forward for the Crew. Zack Steffen, fresh off of his performance going the full 90 for the national team in a shut out, watched two goals go in for the away team - though at least on one, his defense’s poor clearing gave up a clear shot on goal from a rebound.
The cleanest of hits @BrekShea ties it up for @WhitecapsFC! #CLBvVAN https://t.co/ceUqiV5ag5— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 31, 2018
That was Brek Shea on the equalizer. The Texan also had a special message for Columbus Crew fans as the Whitecaps won 2-1 on the strength of a Kei Kamara 79th minute header.
Time to Lletget going: Fox and MLS couldn’t have asked for a better inaugural El Trafico. Another seven goal game headlined the marquee matchup of the weekend as the LA Galaxy hosted LAFC. Things were all LAFC as they looked well in control in the 60th minute behind a Carlos Vela first half brace and early second half Daniel Steres own goal. All that momentum changed completely when American midfielder Sebastian Lletget scored a goal in the 61st minute:
Sebastian Lletget pulls one back for the LA Galaxy!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 31, 2018
Do they have a comeback in them? pic.twitter.com/6BIMOuEzJr
Occasional national team call up Chris Pontius added a second goal before Lletget made way for Zlatan. You know the rest. After not looking awful since moving to LA from San Jose, where he seemed to take a step towards being average in 2017 after being a bubble contender for USMNT netminder, Galaxy keeper David Bingham gave up a pretty rough comedy goal on Vela’s second and then got beat by Steres for the own goal.
All even in Chicago: In the Windy Suburb, Chicago Fire left back Brandon Vincent assisted Nemanja Nikolic on the team’s first goal and headed home the equalizer against the Portland Timbers.
Brandon Vincent equalizes for Chicago late. 2-2 now. pic.twitter.com/AFNjgPsC8k— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) March 31, 2018
For their part in the 2-2 draw, the Timbers featured 19 year-old Portland native and homegrown player Marco Farfan at left back. After making five appearances for the team last year, he already has three starts for the Green and Gold in 2018.
Thinks were... OK in San Jose: Aside from a Nick Lima block on a Maxi Moralez shot, there were few highlights for Yanks in San Jose as the Earthquakes welcomed NYCFC. Pigeons keeper Sean Johnson managed to hold the home team to just one goal earning his side an away goal.
Maxi Moralez had a chance to seal the win for #NYCFC in stoppage time, but his shot was cleared off the line by Nick Lima. #Quakes74 #SJvNYC #MLS pic.twitter.com/b8DJ1AxFK8— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) April 1, 2018
Road win for the Revs: There was yet another away win in Houston as DaMarcus Beasley earned a red card in the 35th minute and the New England Revolution won 2-0. 23 year-old keeper Matt Turner earned his first shut out of the year and in four games has allowed just five goals for the Revs in 2018.
Kansas defensive upkeep: After giving up nine goals in four games, Sporting KC got back to their defensive ways and the 3⁄4 American backline of Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, and Ike Opara kept a clean sheet in front of Tim Melia. For DC United, Chris Durkin played the full 90 but the DC attack failed to find a goal yet again.
A cross too few in the frozen north: Minnesota United gave up an own goal and then Atlanta United defender Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez decided he was tired of being cold and earned a red card in the 38th minute up north. The game proceeded as would be expected - except Minnesota’s lone thought while being up a man for nearly an hour including stoppage time was ‘let’s try to get 51 crosses, I’m sure we’ll score a goal.’ They only managed 50 crosses so the goal didn’t come. Here’s a highlight:
Three Stars from #MINvATL:— FiftyFiveOne (@FiftyFiveOne) April 1, 2018
#1. Chris McCann
#2. Sam Nichsolson
#3. Michael Parkhurst pic.twitter.com/Y0H5PDZUMF
Aside from Ethan Finlay pounding crosses toward the Atlanta goal, solid defending from Michael Parkhurst, Concacafing from Greg Garza, a Brad Guzan clean sheet, and Darlington Nagbe sometimes being one of three players for Atlanta trying to play soccer after being down a man, there wasn’t much to see here for Americans. Andrew Carleton got strep throat and missed the game so nobody can even opine about him not playing.
A river of goals in Colorado: A Dominique Badji hat trick and Tim Howard clean sheet led the Colorado Rapids past Philly 3-0. It was a tough night for teenage American defenders Auston Trusty and Matthew Real. Meanwhile CJ Sapong managed just two shots on goal and Alejandro Bedoya committed two fouls.
Winless in Seattle: The Sounders remain the only winless team in MLS after a 1-0 home loss to the Montreal Impact. The Rave Green were down a man after 40 minutes when defender Kevin Lerdam was shown a red. Americans Will Bruin and Cristian Roldan went the full 90 while his little brother Alex came off the bench for a 16 minute appearance.
Looking ahead - Concacaf Champions League is back this week with Toronto FC hosting Club America on Tuesday night and the NY Red Bulls heading to Guadalajara to take on Chivas Wednesday.