Zlatan Ibrahimovic jumps back into MLS Golden Boot chase with brace

CARSON, Calif. -- Zlatan Ibrahimovic never doubted his ability to put the ball into the net, even as he went through the deepest drought of his brief Major League Soccer career.

He put an end to his slump, and to the LA Galaxy's woeful record at home since April, with two late goals Thursday night in a 2-0 Fourth-of-July triumph over a game Toronto FC side.

Ibrahimovic twisted in the air to nod 17-year-old phenom Efrain Alvarez's lob to the left post over leaping goalkeeper Quentin Westberg and inside the right post to give LA (11-7-1) a 75th-minute lead, then beat Westberg with two touches from Emil Cuello's feed in the 89th minute to secure three badly needed points.

The goals were his 12th and 13th of the campaign and ended an eight-game stretch since early May -- he missed two games in that span through suspension -- in which he had tallied just twice.

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“Of course, I will score,” the 37-year-old Swedish superstar said in the Galaxy locker room when asked how nice it was to be back on the scoresheet. “That is the last problem I have. I just have to be in the last part [of the field] in the right position, which is the most difficult [thing to do].

“But I'm not worried about the goals. I think the collective performance is more important than my goals, because if the collective performance is there, the goals will come.”

Guillermo Barros Schelotto was certainly pleased.

“I'm very happy for him,” the Galaxy's head coach said. “He knows sometimes the striker, they can't score, but I feel happy because he can feel like when he knows he's going to score it. [Sometimes] he [does] not have the possibility to score it, he gets frustration, and today [he had] the possibility to score twice.”

Ibrahimovic, who has 35 goals since arriving at the end of March last year, ended the Galaxy's 240-minute drought, gave them a boost after last weekend's California Clasico loss at San Jose, and halted a three-game losing streak at Dignity Health Sports Park, providing their first home win since April 28.

It didn't come easy. Toronto FC had better possession and field position throughout the first half, and their defensive organization -- with six stretched across the backline and sometimes 11 behind the ball when LA attacked -- provided few opportunities to penetrate.

LA had just three good chances before Ibrahimovic struck. Emmanuel Boateng fired wide under pressure in the third minute, Julian Araujo hit the right post and Joe Corona's rebound was cleared from the 6-yard box by Richie Laryea in the 22nd, and Ibrahimovic fired high on a chest-and-volley from Alvarez's feed in the 62nd.

“It was a good day today, a good game, and two different scenarios [in] the first and the second half,” Ibrahimovic said. “Second half, we stepped up and were pressing higher, win the ball higher, and from there we started to play. The first was more we won the ball [farther] back and we didn't come up to the offensive part and have the offensive power to have chances.”

Ibrahimovic's name was misspelled on the back of his jersey -- as “Irbahimovic” -- and he quipped that the Galaxy's “kit guy celebrated [Independence Day] before the game. ... People know my last name. I'm not worried about that.”

He's second in the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi race, four goals behind LAFC's Carlos Vela, who has played three more games (18 to 15) and has 16 to go (to just 15 more for Ibrahimovic).

“As long as they don't suspend me, maybe I can break some records,” he said. “But I'm not in control of that.”


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