Warshaw: The magic of Zlatan

Sometimes in life you get moments that are worth it.

A lot of the time, sports leave us angry or frustrated. But every once and a while you get a day that reminds you why you ever bothered in the first place.

Saturday afternoon at the StubHub Center, offered that reminder.

At some point around the 80th minute, I noticed I was standing behind my chair, back bent and arms rested on the back of the seat. I didn’t remember ever standing up. Yet I couldn’t imagine sitting down.

This is the magic of sport sometimes.

This is the magic of Zlatan.

For those who have supported Major League Soccer since the beginning, we have put a lot of thought into the growth of the league. What’s the best path to move MLS forward? What’s the best way to improve the product of North American soccer? It’s felt as much a mission as a pastime. We had to make soccer work in America and Canada.

Come 2018, the general consensus suggested we needed young, up-and-coming players. Less 34-year-old Steven Gerrards, more 22-year-old Miguel Almirons. Then Zlatan entered our sphere. The rumors started, and as annoying as they were, we couldn’t put them down. It created a conundrum. It felt like when an ex-lover calls; our mind tells us to stay away, but our heart needs it so bad. Zlatan no longer fit the paradigm of MLS. Yet… Zlatan.

Ultimately, the LA Galaxy decided to bring the giant Swedish lion in into our world. It was exciting to have Zlatan - and anyone who says otherwise is lying. At the same time, it also defied our model for growth. We had a plan! The path forward finally seemed clear. With fears of survival in the rearview, we could start to think differently. We didn’t need the short-term fireworks. A 36-year-old recovering from injury didn’t fit into the plan!

I watched the MLS Cup in 1996 on television. I watched Landon’s first game at Spartan Stadium. I remember watching Bob Bradley sub Eddie Gaven into goal. I’ve defended Major League Soccer against dudes with swollen necks.

I put my arms in the air when Zlatan scored his volley from 40 yards against Los Angeles Football Club.

Because as much as I care about a plan, sometimes it feels so good to let the heart have its moments.