Atlanta United will get their crack at avoiding the spell of Zlatan Ibrahimovic when the Five Stripes take on the LA Galaxy on Saturday in a battle of two teams near the top of their respective conferences at StubHub Center.
Ibrahimovic has put his stamp on MLS quickly, scoring three goals in as many games since coming over from Manchester United on March 31. Behind their new superstar, the Galaxy have moved up the Western Conference table and into a tie for second place.
Further, Los Angeles could get a key cog back from injury in Giovani dos Santos. The midfielder has been out since early March, recovering from a leg injury. Dos Santos returned to training this week and hopes to make an impact Saturday against a quality Atlanta side.
“He is great with the ball, he can trick his opponents and he brings extra quality to our team,” Ibrahimovic said of dos Santos, via ESPN. “He creates a lot of opportunities with the ball, and he makes the game exciting.”
The Five Stripes are unbeaten in their last five matches, with four wins, and sit in second place on the Eastern Conference table. Atlanta is coming off a thrilling 2-2 draw against first-place New York City FC. Saturday’s tilt will be its first showdown with Ibrahimovic, a player some United members openly idolize.
“This is a story to tell my grandchildren,” Atlanta defender Greg Garza told the team’s website. “I idolized him as a kid, watched his YouTube videos and tried to do things he did. But all that aside, we’re going there strictly for business and we need to continue this good run.”
Ezequiel Barco, Atlanta’s prized offseason acquisition, made his debut against NYCFC, coming off the bench to play 20 minutes.
“I think he looked good,” Atlanta coach Tata Martino said of Barco. “Physically, I thought he looked fine.”
United beat the Galaxy 4-0 last season in Atlanta, the only meeting between the two clubs.
—Field Level Media