Zlatan Ibrahimovic nods home winner in LA Galaxy's opening-day win over Chicago

ByReuters via ESPN logo
Sunday, March 3, 2019

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been promising a spectacular season, and he delivered in prompt fashion, scoring on a late header as the LA Galaxy rallied for a 2-1 victory on Saturday over the visiting Chicago Fire in the MLS season-opener for each team.

It was an opportunistic goal in the 80th minute for Ibrahimovic, who closed in on goal from the left side as Chris Pontius fired a shot that rebounded off the crossbar and down toward the goal line before rebounding back onto the field of play.

Ibrahimovic, who was second in MLS last season with 22 goals, rushed in to put his header into the left side of the Fire goal and past goalkeeper David Ousted.

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The Galaxy had trailed 1-0 into the 68th minute, before a Daniel Steres header evened the score. Steres took a feed from 16-year-old midfield debutant Efrain Alvarez and beat Ousted with ease. Alvarez worked the ball in toward goal before flipping a left-footed centering pass through traffic and onto Steres' head.

After a scoreless opening half, the Fire's C.J. Sapong scored a goal in the 49th minute of his debut with the team.

Sapong's goal came after a breakdown by the Galaxy defense when defender Diego Polenta attempted a backward pass, but the ball split two Galaxy teammates and was nowhere near goalkeeper David Bingham.

The free ball was picked up by Sapong, who dribbled around Bingham before scoring his first of the season and the 57th of his MLS career. Sapong was traded to the Fire from the Philadelphia Union on Feb. 23 for $450,000 in allocation money.

The Fire defense had been able to keep Ibrahimovic in check before the Swedish international finally was able to deliver. Ibrahimovic's touches were limited until late in the second half.

The Los Angeles offense did take a blow early when midfielder Romain Alessandrini had to leave after 20 minutes because of what was diagnosed as a right hamstring injury. The injury appeared to happen when the left-footed Alessandrini took a right-footed shot in the 15th minute.

The Galaxy victory came in the debut of new head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Former Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid, who died during the offseason, was honored with a pregame video tribute.

Before the game, the Galaxy also unveiled a statue of former player David Beckham.

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