CARSON, Calif. -- Zlatan Ibrahimovic offered some advice to LA Galaxy foes as he put away two second-half headers to start Saturday night's 3-0 StubHub Center triumph over Real Salt Lake: “Don't make me angry.”
The Swedish superstar netted his sixth and seventh goals of the campaign and Ola Kamara added his sixth as LA (6-7-1), sporting a two-striker formation that looks like it might stick, headed into Major League Soccer's World Cup break with its most emphatic result of the year.
Ibrahimovic gave LA a 61st minute lead, nodding home after RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando parried a Chris Pontius half-volley into a bad spot, then made it 2-0 when he headed a Servando Carrasco cross from the left flank inside the left post six minutes later.
The impetus occurred a few minutes earlier, when a Bradford Jamieson IV chip toward the left post was nodded down by two defenders and Ibrahimovic cleated Justen Glad as the RSL center back cleared the ball off the line.
RSL midfielder Stephen “Sunny” Sunday didn't take too kindly to the collision, and he let the Swede know.
Ibrahimovic had little to say about the tête-à-tête itself -- “What happens on the field stays on the field,” he said -- but the impact? Oh, yeah, he had plenty to say on that.
“Things happen, and it's part of the game ...,” he noted. “We talk afterward, we were laughing about it. It was nothing important.
“I like it because it gives me motivation. I feel motivated, it gives me adrenaline. It's like you put gas on the fire, and the fire becomes hot, trust me. And I'm the fire in this case.”
Ibrahimovic should have scored three -- he reacted a half-second too slow to the 56th-minute play on the goal line -- but “I'll tell you, before the operation [following last year's knee injury], it would have gone in, because my leg would be longer. After the operation, my leg was shorter. So it was close. It was very close. It tried.”
The victory was just LA's second in six home games since Ibrahimovic's stirring debut to beat LAFC at the end of March, and it points the way forward for the Galaxy, which are still trying to get everyone on the same page following an offseason rebuild, an early-season injury crisis, and the great Swede's arrival.
Head coach Sigi Schmid went to a 3-5-2 formation, with Kamara partnering Ibrahimovic up top, and everyone was pleased with what they saw. Pontius' performance as a right-sided wing-back and Jamieson's play after he came on for an injured Sebastian Lletget four minutes into the second half played prominently in the success.
“We wanted to be a little more direct,” Schmid said. “Trying to get guys on the same page with Zlatan on the field and all the changes we've had to make, so we said, hey, we've been scoring more goals when we've been playing two forwards and playing more of 3-5-2 or 5-3-2 -- whatever you want to call it -- and so that's the way we came out tonight. Obviously, we did well, and we got a little more direct.”
Kamara, who had been placed on the left flank in a 4-2-3-1 formation after Ibrahimovic's arrival, loved the new look -- “It's a good thing for this team; I can imagine two of us playing striker [going forward], for sure,” he said -- and Ibrahimovic agreed.
“I think when we changed to two strikers, it works easier. I think we're more stable,” Ibrahimovic said. “Today we were more direct, we were more in our game, we were dong things we're better at ... so let's continue like this. We have been working the last two weeks on the things we're doing now, and you can see the result.”
Kamara, he said, is “a good guy and physically strong. He's a monster ... and he runs a lot and in front of the goal he's dangerous. He's a good complement, because I'm not the one that can run for three guys, and he's the one that can do that.”