MARIETTA, Ga. — With his larger-than-life presence and prolific goal-scoring ability, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s blockbuster move from Manchester United to the LA Galaxy quickly sent shockwaves through MLS.
In just 127 minutes of play over three league appearances, the Swede has already scored three goals, none more captivating than his long-range strike just six minutes into his debut against rival LAFC.
“Everything happens at the right moment for him,” Garza said. “I think if it was anyone else in the world, maybe the ball would’ve bounced differently. He’s amazing to watch on the field and he’s a funny guy off the field. He’s a guy who’s already making a difference. He has that sort of luck and mentality that can change a game quickly.”
Ibrahimovic may be the latest player to come to MLS after having established himself through a long career in Europe, but signing an older, more well-known player is nothing new when one considers the Galaxy’s history. Previously, the club has signed David Beckham, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Nigel de Jong, Robbie Keane and Jelle Van Damme.
It is perhaps the polar opposite of how Atlanta United have built their squad, with all four signings who originally joined the club as Designated Players doing so before they turned 23.
While some MLS clubs continue to sign established talent at the tail end of their careers, others turn to players with an abundance of untapped potential.
Atlanta coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino doesn’t see his club’s preference for the latter changing any time soon.
“Ibrahimovic is a world figure. I don’t think I can add anything to that,” said Martino. “However, a signing like that wouldn’t really fall in line with the policy of our club, based on the conversations I’ve had with Darren Eales [Atlanta’s president] and Carlos Bocanegra [Atlanta’s technical director].”
Although this matchup is a clash of approaches, Garza’s only focus is defending his childhood idol on Saturday.
“This is a story to tell my grandchildren,” Garza said. “I idolized him as a kid, watched his YouTube videos and tried to do things he did. But all that aside, we’re going there strictly for business and we need to continue this good run.”