CARSON, Calif. — The pass bounced once ahead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and he cleanly brought it down with his right foot then used his left to knock it home.
The lights dimmed at Dignity Health Sports Park as the yellow, blue and white confetti filled the air and the Swede ran around celebrating.
Twenty-five goals in 25 games this campaign set a Los Angeles Galaxy record, as Ibrahimovic took the club’s single-season scoring record from Carlos Ruiz. And yet, that was a side note Sunday because Galaxy ended up putting a touchdown on the board in a smashing 7-2 win over Sporting Kansas City.
Zlatan scored before and after the aforementioned historic goal, notching his third career MLS hat trick. After the game he declared “without joking” that he was the best to ever play in the league.
“I’m here to perform and to show everybody what the game is about,” Ibrahimovic said. “I think the two years I’ve had here I’ve done good things, amazing things and perfect things. I just have to keep going and help my team in the best way, and that’s by scoring goals.”
His tally for the year is now up to 26, just two shy of Carlos Vela’s MLS-best 28. Zlatan says he’s not focused on chasing those records because despite all his goals, the Galaxy are currently fighting for a playoff spot.
That’s why nobody in the locker room was bragging about such a performance, which would usually warrant a bit more excitement. After a pair of disappointing — and controversial — recent results in Seattle and Colorado left Los Angeles without a single point, the only acceptable outcome against SKC would be a victory.
“We all came out with a must-win mentality and nobody was going to let this opportunity pass us,” said Uriel Antuna, who was one of the many names that showed up on the scoresheet.
For a while it looked like it was going to be a challenge, as the Galaxy conceded the opening goal halfway through the first half after another one of those defensive breakdowns that have caused many of their headaches this year. But not long after falling behind, Antuna dashed across the field into the area and caused a penalty.
Ibrahimovic’s attempt was initially blocked by keeper Tim Melia but the rebound landed right at his feet for the equalizer. The sense of urgency was evident as the captain raced to grab the ball in the net and place it back at midfield. Such tenacity continued into the second frame and the rampage was on.
This was about more than the result for Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side, though. Whether it was Cristian Pavon running freely and causing trouble down the wings or Jonathan dos Santos providing his non-stop energy, the Galaxy finally seemed completely in sync for the first time in a month.
Even Ibrahimovic, who has rightly been criticized for seeming disinterested in certain situations, was chasing balls and chirping players late into the match when it was already well out of reach.
“It’s a good sign. The important result, efficiency and forcefulness,” Schelotto said. “We believe in this squad. They showed a very good level of play and hopefully we can sustain it.”
The next two games are important hurdles. Montreal, fighting for its own playoff life in the East, visits Carson next weekend, followed by a midweek trip to Real Salt Lake that could really shake up the standings between teams currently separated by a single point in the fourth and fifth spots.
The Galaxy are getting help, too, with San Jose, Portland and Dallas all losing this weekend. They took care of the rest themselves.
“We showed everybody, when we want, we can do it,” Zlatan declared. “Everybody should fear us as long as we come in the playoffs.”
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