As expected, Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his first start Saturday for the LA Galaxy.
As expected, his teammates made a concerted effort to find him.
And as expected, “Ibra” got on the scoresheet as the Galaxy defeated the Chicago Fire 1-0 on a chilly day at Toyota Park in the Bridgeview, Ill.
But perhaps the most significant factor of all was the wind. With a stiff breeze at their back, the Galaxy (3-2-1) dominated with chances in the first half before Ibra connected on a header in extra time at the end of the first half off an assist by Ashley Cole.
Twice, would-be goals were disallowed, with Galaxy forward Ola Kamara offside on both plays, leaving Chicago (1-3-1) lucky to be down only a goal at the end of the first half.
The second half was a completely different story in terms of energy, purpose and chances. Now playing with the wind behind them, the Fire got chance after chance, set play after set play, including 10 corner kicks, but couldn’t break through.
Oddly quiet was Chicago’s offensive powerhouse, Nemanja Nikolic. His best chance came in the 64th minute, but his header was saved by David Bingham to preserve a clean sheet.
Bingham made some vital plays in the second half, though he often looked uncomfortable trying to account for the wind and Chicago’s increased intensity, and a seemingly endless succession of corner kicks.
For Ibrahimovic, it was the longest he has played in well over a year after suffering a serious knee injury and undergoing surgery while he was with Manchester United. His fitness wasn’t up to snuff, his energy flagging in the second half, but not before getting a dangerous chance in the 75th minute. Fire goalie Richard Sanchez made the save on his left-footed shot in the box.
Ultimately, the Galaxy didn’t need the insurance, notching their first road win of the season and leaving the Fire and their fans frustrated and with still a single victory on the season.
—Field Level Media