KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s jaw-dropping debut last week has been the talk of the league this week, and rightly so. But Sporting Kansas City aren't afraid of the Swede's attempt at an encore.
Sporting KC captain Matt Besler said it pumps his side up to see a player like Ibrahimovic on the opposite side of the field, when Sporting will face the LA Galaxy at StubHub Center on Sunday (9 pm ET | FS1 - Full TV & Streaming Info).
“Yeah, obviously it does,” Besler said. “I don’t know what the exact measurements of Zlatan are, but he’s probably 6-foot-5, 230 [pounds], and when he steps on the field he’s arguably the most skilled player. Like, when does that ever happen?”
While some KC supporters may be chagrined to see a player of Ibrahimovic's quality turning out for a direct conference rival, Besler said his addition to the league is a good thing.
“One hundred percent,” Besler said. “It’s great for the league. He’s obviously a really big personality, probably the biggest in our game. So I think it’s great that he’s going to be here for our league.
“He’s going to provide a lot of entertainment hopefully, both on and off the field. The game is still growing in our country, so its great to have players with the established pedigree that he has.”
Sporting KC took the season series with the Galaxy in each of the last three seasons. They are 3-0-3 in their last six meetings with the Galaxy, including a 2-1 win at the StubHub Center last June. Coach Peter Vermes believes his team is going to have to be sharp and efficient if they want to replicate their road result from 2017.
“I think the thing about the Galaxy is that, in the past, I think they’ve had some players that can really hurt you,” said Vermes.
“I think today, they have more of those players than ever before. So we’re going to have to be alert. We’re going to have to be really concentrated. We can’t give up the ball in crucial areas of the field, and if we get some chances we’re going to have to be really efficient with those chances as well.”
While the Galaxy have a chance to get some of their injured stars back into the fold this week, including the dos Santos brothers, perhaps KC's best player so far this year may not be ready to.
Felipe Gutierrez went off injured in the 53rd minute of Sporting KC’s 1-0 win over D.C. United last Saturday. Vermes categorized the Chilean's status as day-to-day, hesitant to make him “available” for Sunday.
“He’s kind of day-to day,” Vermes said. “I’m more of the ‘long-term’ guy than a ‘short-term’ guy. So, I’m not going to push a guy if I think that there’s a chance of another setback. I’d rather take extra time on the player.”