CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy are set to play their first match of the season on turf when they head to Vancouver's BC Place in Week 6 for MLS Friday Night on TSN (10 pm ET | TSN1 in Canada; MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US). So what does that mean for Zlatan Ibrahimovic?
Full speed ahead.
The 37-year-old Swedish superstar, who last year did not feature in many of LA's games on artificial surfaces, declared that he has “no problem with turf fields” following the Galaxy's Week 5 victory over Portland and he reiterated his stance following Wednesday's training session at Dignity Health Sports Park.
“If I feel good,” he said when asked if he expects to play in every game on any surface, “I will play.”
First up is Friday night's encounter against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, as the Galaxy will look for their first road points of the season. “I'm ready,” LA's captain said.
“[Last year] was an issue for my knee. That was a whole different situation ...,” said Ibrahimovic, who joined the Galaxy (3W-1L-0D) last year after missing most of the previous year with a major knee injury. “I didn't even know if I was ready for the turf or how the consequence will be. That was a little bit risky. [I didn't play] because I didn't want, it was because of the injury.”
He says he feels fine a few days after going the full 90 minutes in his return from an Achilles tendon injury, that there were “no consequences on my issue” during or after the 2-1 triumph.
“I feel good, I feel good,” Ibrahimovic said. “My body will never be 100 percent. When you are above 30 [years old], the pain just moves around, and you just have to handle it good. I need only to be 90 percent.”
He says he prepares for games on artificial surfaces as he does before matches on real grass.
“I just go in and play the game, and from there we see what happens,” said Ibrahimovic, who won and converted two penalty kicks against Portland and has three goals in two appearances this season. “I mean, I cannot focus different or change anything. Even if it's on turf, I have to keep doing what I'm doing and prepare in the way I always play.”
Last year, he made two appearances on artificial surfaces, coming on in the 72nd minute of a 1-1 draw at Portland and scoring and assisting goals in a 90-minute effort as LA beat Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium, 3-1, as the Galaxy pushed for a postseason berth, a quest that fell short in the end.
“I brought the whole crowd to the stadium [in Minnesota],” he noted. How did he like the TCF Bank Stadium turf? “Eh, 50,000 was happy. The turf didn't stop [them]. They came anyway.”
Ibrahimovic has played on turf “many times” during his career, which has included stays in Italy, Spain, France, England, Holland and with his hometown club Malmö FF. It's not really that big of a deal, he says.
“France had a couple of fields [with artificial turf],” he said. “There were more in Sweden. Italy had one, I think they had, but it's common to play on [artificial] turf.”
Vancouver (0W-3L-1D) have struggled to start the campaign, dropping one-goal decisions at home against Minnesota, at Real Salt Lake and at Houston before their Week 5 scoreless draw with Cascadia rival Seattle at BC Place.
“Every game is a new game. Whatever happens before doesn't mean anything,” Ibrahimovic said. “For sure, they're preparing the best way they can, and they are ready for the game. And I think when [teams] play against the Galaxy, they're more ready than for the other games. After playing one season in MLS, I think everybody wants to beat Galaxy, because Galaxy is the biggest team, and they become more satisfied when they beat us than the other teams.
“So that's why we have to work hard, prepare hard, be focused and do what we are good at. So far we have done good, except for one game [a 2-0 loss at FC Dallas in Week 2]. It's all about us. I don't focus on them. All the respect for them, [but] we have to do our job, and we go there to get the three points that we need.”