Well after the dust had settled and Real Salt Lake lost 2-1 to the L.A. Galaxy on Sunday night, Galaxy striker and one of Major League Soccer’s most divisive figures, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, wanted to make amends.
Earlier in the game, Ibrahimovic appeared to grab Nedum Onuoha by the neck and toss him to the ground, leading Onuoha to shout in his face. Ibrahimovic picked up a yellow card.
But the tension didn’t end there. Just after Ibrahimovic scored the game-winning goal, he taunted Onuoha by yelling in his ear. This time, however, Onuoha didn’t react.
After the game, Ibrahimovic went into RSL’s locker room looking to apologize to Onuoha for his behavior. But the Salt Lake defender was having none of it and told him to “get out” of his team’s locker room. The two players had to be separated.
“From 60 minutes in, he’s saying to me he’s going to do me, he’s going to hurt me for that game,” Onuoha told KMYU after the game, referencing the confrontation. “This is a guy who is the face of the MLS as he calls himself, but this is the way he plays on the field. … You don’t say that on the field. I don’t care, I’m not going to accept his apology. It’s unacceptable.”
When asked about the incident, Ibrahimovic appeared to shrug it off and said, “What happens on the field stays on the field.” He said he entered RSL’s locker room to shake Onuoha’s hand and that it was “no big deal.”
“I like to feel alive. I like when it becomes duels and that because sometimes I, not that I fall asleep, but I don’t feel alive if they don’t activate me," Ibrahimovic said when asked about how he celebrated his goal. "They need to activate me because or else it becomes too easy.”
RSL coach Mike Petke declined to address the matter specifically, but he alluded to the idea that referees are, in a way, in awe of Ibrahimovic much like the soccer world at large.
“Everyone is in over Zlatan because he’s an aura and he’s a staple,” Petke told KMYU. “When you talk about forwards — charismatic, talented, unbelievable player — Zlatan’s top of the list. The league in general is completely in awe of him. Do I expect the referees to be any different? No. I have nothing more to say about that.”