Zlatan, Ibra — whatever you want to call him, he’s the new God walking among mere mortals in MLS.
When David Beckham came over from England to try and boost street cred for MLS, it was a big deal. It didn’t, however, give the league that Beatles-come-to-America makeover we all thought it might. It captured our curiosity but didn’t demand our attention.
Less than 90-minutes into his MLS career, Zlatan Ibrahimovic demanded attention on a level the MLS probably wasn’t expecting. He’s long been one of Europe’s best footballers, but his MLS debut catapulted the sport to peak Twitter in ways that haven’t happened before.
Maybe Beckham could have bent social media if it has existed at the time as it does now. MLS history won’t remember that though, it’ll remember Zlatan.
After just a single game — and not even a full one for him — Zlatan has taken over the league. He scored two goals for L.A. Galaxy after coming on late in their derby match against LAFC, including a game-winner in stoppage time.
European soccer fans are well versed in the language of Zlatan. He’s been a popular figure for years across the pond, but this was America’s first good taste of him. The internet, much like MLS itself, wasn’t ready for Full Zlatan.
There’s an argument to be made here that Zlatan’s debut actually exposes the MLS as being low rent soccer. Here’s a guy who has played in about two games over the last year and he absolutely dominated his competition. He didn’t even need a full match to do it, just half a match and some change.
We can save that discussion for another day. Right now only one thing matters, and that’s the amplification MLS is getting right now.
Speaking as someone who isn’t a big soccer fan, Zlatan’s debut in MLS has me wanting to buy in. Maybe it’s the FOMO effect of being in the moment, or maybe it’s more. Either way, something happened on Saturday afternoon that has rarely happened in the last 25 years — everyone was talking about MLS.
That’s worth whatever price was paid to mix Zlatan Ibrahimovic with American soccer.