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Vancouver Whitecaps welcome Zlatan Ibrahimovic, LA Galaxy to BC Place

Mar 30, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach Marc Dos Santos speaks to his team the end of a game against the Seattle Sounders at BC Place. (Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports)

VANCOUVER, B.C – The Zlatan Ibrahimovic show is coming to B.C. Place. Vancouver Whitecaps FC host the LA Galaxy at 10 p.m. ET Friday night. After picking up their first result of the season in a nil-nil draw with Seattle on Saturday, the Caps (0-3-1, 1 point) will look for their first win.

The LA Galaxy (3-1-0, 9 points) are coming off a 2-1 win over the Portland Timbers. On the one-year anniversary of his MLS debut, Ibrahimovic converted a pair of penalties to lift the Galaxy to victory. Ahead of his first visit to Vancouver, Ibrahimovic is rounding into full fitness

“I feel good,” Ibrahimovic told reporters in Los Angeles. “You will never be 100%. When you are above 30, the pain just moves around. And you just handle it. So I need only to be 90%.

“You always have something. It’s about how you handle it. You will always have some small issues. We play a physical sport and every day you get physical contact. And the consequence is that you get a hit or something and it’s all about how you handle it. And how you are mentally. Pain, you will have always.”

Vancouver is well aware of the quality Ibrahimovic brings. 

All they have to do is stop him.

“It’s impossible for you to build a game playing against the LA Galaxy and not mention Zlatan,” Vancouver coach Marc Dos Santos explained. “It would be very irresponsible from a staff. We prepare every game like he’s coming, playing and he’s going to be there. If there’s another decision taken before the game, it’s out of our control. We have to prepare to play the best LA Galaxy team.

“You prepare inside your principles, knowing where the dangers are. If you focus a lot on Ibra, it opens space to forget players like, (Emmanuel) Boateng, (Romain) Alessandrini, and (Sebastian) Lletget. You have to be always focused on the LA Galaxy, knowing that Ibra could do the difference.”

It’s going to take an all around team effort to prevent Ibrahimovic from adding to his career tally of 508 goals. Whitecaps FC skipper, Jon Erice, has played against top calibre players throughout his time in Europe. He might have a recipe for containing Zlatan.

“The most important thing is not to only be focused on Zlatan,” Erice told Pro Soccer USA. “OK, for sure he’s a more impact player in the team, we know that. We have to work as a team. If the ball doesn’t arrive to Ibra, he will not be dangerous. We have to be very close in the middle, and not leave space for Jonathan (Dos Santos) and the other midfielders.

“They have a good passing game, and if they arrive to the ball in the last third, Ibra will be dangerous. He will not go to their defense to take the ball and score a goal. We have to work as team and block the line of passes to Ibra. We have to be careful of all the team, not only Ibra.”

In 29 MLS games, Ibrahimovic has scored 25 goals and added 10 assists. The 37-year-old is a perfect six for six from the penalty spot. Wherever his career has taken him, Ibrahimovic has always been clutch. He knows exactly what to do to earn a penalty.

Whitecaps FC has given up three penalties this season, and opponents have made them pay each time.

“Of course if Ibra shows up,” Dos Santos paused. “You have to be careful, but not over aggressive. Ibra has experience, he talks well, he’s provocative on the field. He doesn’t shut-up, in a good way. He knows how to get under the skin of a defender. We spoke about that — don’t listen.”

The former Swedish international has a highlight reel of making defenders and goalkeepers look silly. Whitecaps FC will be out to shut Zlatan down.

“The odds of shutting LA Galaxy down, always give you a chance of winning a game,” Dos Santos said, philosophically.

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