The 21,915 soccer fans that bought tickets to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic play at Toyota Park Saturday didn’t realize they were lining up to see Ibrahimovic’s first MLS start.
They made the trek out to Bridgeview, Ill. just to get a glimpse — even for only 20 minutes — of the soccer legend. Instead, they got more than their money’s worth.
Ibrahimovic scored the lone goal in Saturday’s match, lifting the L.A. Galaxy over the Chicago Fire in front of the largest crowd Toyota Park has seen in its 12-year history.
“It was cool,’’ Ibrahimovic told reporters after the match. “I heard they never fill the stadium, so I should come often.’’
A matchup between Ibrahimovic and his former Manchester United teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger added extra appeal for the droves of fans who braved the cold, rainy and windy conditions. But in first half stoppage time, Ibrahimovic won the duel.
He cut between Schweinsteiger and defender Grant Lillard to head a lofted cross diagnolly across the face of goal and into the back of the net. The win moved the Galaxy up to second in the Western Conference, behind Sporting Kansas City.
The next morning, Ibrahimovic hinted on Twitter that he would join Sweden in the World Cup, writing “The chance of me playing in the World Cup is skyhöga,” or, roughly translated, “sky-high.”
It was a complete change of tone from November, when he said he would not return to international play even if Sweden punched its ticket to Russia.
Toronto set to face Chivas in CCL finals
Toronto FC became just the third MLS team to reach the CONCACAF Champions League final in history — joining Real Salt Lake (2011) and the Montreal Impact (2015) — and the sixth to reach the title match of the confederation’s tournament.
No MLS club has won the cup since the CONCACAF Champions Cup moved to the CCL format in 2008.
Toronto forced a 1-1 draw with Club América at Azteca Stadium last week to seize a 4-2 aggregate victory in the CCL semifinals. TFC is scheduled to face Chivas on Tuesday. Chivas knocked the New York Red Bulls out in the semifinals.
Dempsey suspended extra game for elbow
The MLS Diciplinary Committee suspended Seattle forward Clint Dempsey an additional game for an elbow he threw during the Sounders’ March 18 match against FC Dallas. He has also been fined an undisclosed amount.
Dempsey had already served the one-game suspension that came with the red card, sitting out against Montreal on March 31, and served the rest of his suspension Sunday when the Sounders took on Sporting Kansas City.
1. New York City FC (last week: 1) • NYCFC forced a point on the road against a strong Atlanta United team on Sunday, and before that took out RSL at Yankee Stadium in dominant fashion last Wednesday, extending its undefeated streak to seven matches.
2. Atlanta United (3) • Atlanta United was able to take the lead twice against NYCFC in an evenly matched game that ended in a 2-2 draw.
3. Toronto FC (2) • The CCL/MLS curse lives on as Toronto advanced to the Champions League finals but was shut out at Colorado.
4. New York Red Bulls (6) • Kaku scored his first MLS goal to help the Red Bulls rebound from the disappointment of missing out on the CCL final as they beat Montreal 3-1.
5. Columbus Crew SC (4) • The Crew fell to 10-man D.C. United, giving the home team its first win of the season.
6. Sporting Kansas City (5) • SKC allowed a shorthanded Seattle side to rally for a draw in Kansas City.
7. LA Galaxy (8) • Ibrahimovic has been integrated into the starting lineup, and it’s a beautiful sight. But Chicago wasn’t much of a test for the Galaxy, even in a packed home stadium.
8. Los Angeles FC (10) • LAFC’s attacking core was clicking again in a 2-0 win at Vancouver.
9. FC Dallas (unranked) • Dallas has gone from mostly just not losing to winning Saturday, making it one of two undefeated teams this far into the season.
10. New England Revolution (7) • The Revs’ four-game unbeaten streak came to an end when FC Dallas came to town.