Ibra, Ibra, Ibra! Zlatan's arrival goes viral

ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 05, 2018 08:09 AM
Ibra, Ibra, Ibra! Zlatan's arrival goes viral
Los Angeles Galaxy's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, of Sweden, celebrates his debut goal during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Los Angeles FC Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Carson, Calif. The Galaxy won 4-3. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press

There are a lot of conflicting opinions about Zlatan Ibrahimovic's move to Major League Soccer. But no one can argue that his arrival wasn't dramatic.

The audacious Swedish striker arrived in Los Angeles on Friday and on Saturday he scored twice in the LA Galaxy's 4-3 come-from-way-behind victory over the expansion LAFC in the much-ballyhooed first rivalry game between the two teams.

The drama was good for Major League Soccer, brand-wise. On social media, the match led Nielsen's sports content ratings for that day, with 1,987,000 mentions. The hashtag #Zlatan was trending worldwide for three hours after the match — and for five hours afterward in the United States.

Even David Beckham (another big star once lured to the Galaxy) weighed in on Instagram: "Just the beginning. Trust me you haven't seen anything yet."

It was also good for FOX, a network that had already shown a 5 percent bump in MLS viewership last season. Saturday's match set a new ratings benchmark for a regular-season game in Nielsen's metered markets, FOX said.

And last of all, it was good for Ibrahimovic himself, who had faced questions about his fitness — and that pesky knee injury — when he signed a two-year deal with the Galaxy. The 36-year-old announced his arrival with a goal from 40 yards out after coming in as a sub.

"I mean, my history often when I come to a new team, I score in the first game, the first official game, so I wouldn't let it down this time," he told the broadcasting crew after the game. "I had to score."

The Galaxy are now 2-1-1 after finishing in last place in the MLS last season with a paltry eight league wins.

Ibrahimovic, Sweden's all-time leading scorer, came to the Galaxy from Manchester United, where he played for two seasons. He made 53 appearances with the club, scoring 29 goals. But after injuring his right knee last April 20, he had just two starts and five substitute appearances, scoring his only goal Dec. 20 against Bristol City in the League Cup.

At his introductory news conference, Ibrahimovic proclaimed: "The lion is hungry." And for his effort in his Galaxy debut, he was named the league's Player of the Week.

But while his debut was beneficial for the league on many levels, it simply wasn't good for LAFC, which saw its lead slip away at the end. Thanks to Ibrahimovic.

"Everything went well for them (in the last 15 minutes). 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," LAFC's Carlos Vela said.

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