The Galaxy will be hard-pressed to stop the rot as Zlatan Ibrahimovic completes serving his two-match ban Friday night when Los Angeles plays Orlando City SC looking to end a four-match losing streak.
The superstar forward was handed the ban after putting his hand on the neck of New York City FC keeper Sean Johnson in the Galaxy’s 2-0 loss May 11. Ibrahimovic and Johnson were both given yellow cards at the time of the incident, but the league felt the move warranted further discipline against Ibrahimovic, who has factored in 11 of his team’s 18 goals with nine goals and two assists.
Los Angeles (7-1-5) sorely missed the towering Swede as the focal point of its attack, putting just six of its 18 shots on target Sunday in a 1-0 home loss to previously winless Colorado. The Galaxy, who last lost five straight from June 24-July 22, 2017, amassed 67 percent possession and completed twice as many passes, but their poor finishing proved costly as the Rapids scored eight minutes from time.
“We are lacking that final pass and goal, which is the most important in soccer because you can have all the ball possession in the world, but at the end, if you don’t score goals, nothing happens,” captain Jonathan dos Santos told the club’s official website. “Four consecutive games that we lose is something no one likes, but Friday we play another final, and we hope to go back to winning ways.”
Without Ibrahimovic, defender Daniel Steres is the team’s leading goal-scorer with three. In fact, seven of the nine goals not scored by Ibrahimovic have come from Galaxy defenders.
Orlando City (4-3-6), meanwhile, is coming off its best offensive performance of the year, a 5-1 thumping of expansion side FC Cincinnati on Sunday. The Lions shook off an early goal by the upstart club, scoring five unanswered as both Nani and Tesho Akindele had braces before Dom Dwyer capped the scoring in the 82nd minute.
The outburst was a welcome sight for Orlando City, which scored more than one goal for just the third time this season. The other two occasions also came at home in a 2-2 draw versus New York City FC in the March 2 opener and a 4-3 win over Colorado on April 6.
The Lions have won three of four at home after taking one point from their first three matches there.
“We’re still very far from where we want to arrive, and there’s a lot of work to do,” Nani said Wednesday at a media gathering. “We must stay with our feet on the floor and know we’re going to have a very hard game Friday and we must be strong, more positive and with more confidence.”
The Lions will also be without a key component as Dwyer will serve a one-match ban for yellow card accumulation. He is tied with Akindele for second on the team with four goals, and the pair – along with Nani – have produced 15 of the club’s 19 goals.
The home team has won all four previous matches between the teams since Orlando City entered MLS in 2015. The Lions will undoubtedly be pleased they will miss seeing Ibrahimovic, whose two goals in a four-minute span of the second half rallied Los Angeles to a 4-3 victory in last year’s lone meeting.