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TORONTO – Judging by the number of shirts of any and all persuasions dotted amongst the crowd at BMO Field on Saturday night, more than a few were hoping to catch a glimpse of what Zlatan Ibrahimovic can do.
He did not disappoint.
Rather than turn the way a human would and risk missing the opportunity, Ibrahimovic instead went the other direction, calming raising his right boot to elegantly roundhouse the ball into the back of the Toronto FC net, kissing it off the post no less, leaving Alex Bono and Michael Bradley to only look at each other and ponder.
Not a bad way to score the 500th goal of your career.
“Instinct,” smiled Ibrahimovic post-match. “Those things you don’t plan, it’s impossible. The way it came, I just tried to get it on goal. I’m just happy for the Toronto fans, that they got to see something they haven’t seen before.”
Even Bono, who will forever be memorialized as the goalkeeper in that goal, could only shake his head.
“You never want to give passes to yourself on any goals, but that was a pretty unique finish,” he said. “I’ve never had a goal scored on me like that before. He took it pretty well.”
Added Jay Chapman, who sealed the 5-3 Toronto win in stoppage time: “That was the first time I’ve ever heard our fans clap when the other team scored. Didn’t like that he scored, but if he was going to, it was a pretty cool way to do it.”
Ibrahimovic appreciated the nod from the home supporters.
“It’s nice. Wherever I play in MLS, the away supporters become like my home supporters. I see them excited when they see me play,” he said. “And if I miss, they pretend to whistle, but they don’t really. They do that because they want to show they are loyal to their team. Deep inside, I know they’re my fans.”
Jonathan Osorio, who netted the game-winner after the LA Galaxy pulled level with two more quick goals in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, however, did not like that one bit.
“It was a great goal, don’t get me wrong,” admitted Osorio. “It’s like they wanted him to score. I didn’t like that, but he did what great players do… amazing goal.”
In his first game at the helm of the Galaxy, interim coach Dominic Kinnear was plain about what makes Zlatan, Zlatan.
“He’s ultra competitive, wants to win all the time, every minute of every game,” said Kinnear. “Throw on top that he’s a wonderful soccer player and sometimes it’s real fun to watch.”
Of his 500 goals, 17 have been scored for the Galaxy. While his milestone strike was all the talk Saturday night, Kinnear is partial to Ibrahimovic’s first in MLS.
“The first goal he scored for us was something that completely took your breath away,” Kinnear said. “It was an amazing goal tonight, but the first one, the experience and feeling for that, was something you can’t describe.”
And for all that it was, it was not unique in the pantheon of Ibrahimovic goals.
“It’s not the first time,” grinned Ibrahimovic. “I had a goal in Ajax that was more-or-less the same. This one was more beautiful. If I want to be positive, I’m happy for the fans, got to see that; got to see eight goals.”
“This one was nice,” continued Ibrahimovic. “[But] I don’t want to be too positive because I lost the game; I hate to lose. I didn’t check the video yet, but I got a lot of messages saying, ‘I’m totally crazy!’ It means I did something crazy.”