Zlatan Ibrahimovic notched his 12th and 13th goals of the season in a 2-0 LA Galaxy victory over Toronto FC.
“We stepped up more (in the second half), won the ball higher, pressed higher, and from there we started to play,” Ibrahimovic told media after the match.
After a much-needed win, the Galaxy now sits on 34 points, keeping pace with the top of the table. Now, because of Ibrahimovic’s brace and David Bingham’s shutout, LA has a plus-four goal differential, good for third in the conference.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto made three changes to his starting lineup. LA’s 17-year-old Efrain Alvarez made his first career Major League Soccer start. With the return of Giancarlo Gonzalez from Gold Cup action, he forced Diego Polenta from his center back spot. In return, Polenta moved to the left back position, replacing Dave Romney.
The Galaxy were missing a whole slew of players – seven – in this match. Five were out due to injuries, while two more are still away or international duty.
There was a lone chance in the opening half to break open the deadlock and that came in the 22nd minute. The home side built up play nicely, maintaining possession and passing the ball around and finding space.
Favio Alvarez played a simple pass out wide to Polenta on the wing. The 27-year-old found the channel which sprung Emmanuel Boateng in behind the Toronto defense.
Boateng then slid a dangerous ball through the six-yard box. The other 17-year-old in the starting lineup, Julian Araujo, hit the left post with his attempt. Joe Corona was there on the rebound but his effort was blocked before it could find the back of the net.
Six minutes after the restart, Toronto nearly caught the Galaxy off guard on a corner taken quick. Alejandro Pozuelo was left all alone in the box, turned, and fired just over the top of the goal.
Ibrahimovic sparks the Galaxy
The Swedish striker could have had a hattrick on the Fourth of July. Efrain Alvarez, in the 62nd minute, floated a pass straight into the chest of Ibrahimovic. He brought the ball down and attempted a volley but could not quite get a reading on the end product.
However, Ibrahimovic would get the last laugh before things were all said and done. Alvarez again set up the Galaxy striker with a nice ball over the top of the defense. This time around, as he was roaming back, Ibrahimovic headed the cross towards the far post.
Emil Cuello, after coming into the match in the 82nd minute, grabbed his first assist of his MLS career.
He raced down the left flank before cutting slightly inside. Cuello found an open Ibrahimovic inside the box, who took a cross down with his first touch before finding the back of the net with his second.
“I’m not worried about the goals,” Ibrahimovic said. “I think that if the collective performance is there, the goals will come.”
The LA Galaxy will not play again until next Friday when they host rivals San Jose Earthquakes at Dignity Health Sports Park. Kick off for this match is scheduled at 8:00 PM.