As the sound of the final whistle echoed around a lifeless StubHub Center, a shellshocked LA Galaxy squad struggled to absorb what had just unfolded.
Romain Alessadrini and David Bingham collapsed to the ground, sprawled out dejectedly on the pristine grass. Zlatan went straight to the bench, briefly crossing his legs before uncrossing and staring at the ground in an attempt to endure the humiliation with as much dignity as possible. A motionless David Romney stood still with a blank stare.
Downstairs, an offseason full of questions has already begun.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic sat out the postgame festivities and left the building without speaking to reporters, sowing doubt in some minds that Ibra would return in 2019.
In the grand scheme of things Zlatan’s reaction isn’t a big deal. Ibrahimovic has consistently made himself available to the media and by all accounts has been a model teammate this season.
Ibra may be a soccer god but he’s also a competitor at heart. Ibra the Competitor missed plenty of chances to score on Sunday including a point-blank range effort, and the Swedish target striker failed to provide much link-up play. Zlatan had a off-day at the worst possible time, when four days ago Ibrahimovic was flossing on the Late Late Show with James Corden. The big man has to be second-guessing his performance.
As we witnessed earlier at the Banc when a fuming Bob Bradley hurled F bombs in the hallway after El Trafico II, footballers can blow their top when things don’t go their way.
Even back in March when the 36-year old was an unknown quantity coming off a gruesome knee injury, signing Ibrahimovic to a TAM deal was a heck of a bargain. 22 goals, 10 assists, a debut for the ages, El Trafico, goal number 500, endless highlights, quotes, one-liners and a sea of free publicity later, Zlatan has surpassed his own lofty expectations. Not only has Ibra produced, he’s the face of the league.
Ibra and his superstar agent/Bond villian Mino Raiola would be crazy not to demand a ton of money this offseason, and the Galaxy would be crazy not to offer it in a heartbeat. (Don’t think MLS officials aren’t monitoring the situation as well)
Rollin' in Venice Beach pic.twitter.com/jCsmv6dAtM— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) July 10, 2018
If the parties can come to terms, Ibra will be back.
The fate of Ashley Cole is less certain. As the season has wound down, the 38-year old left back has seesawed back and forth on a potential return, emphasizing a desire for the club to approach him about an extension.
Following the season finale in which Ashley’s family was in attendance, Cole again came across like someone who hasn’t made a decision yet on his future.
Ultimately the decision is up to Cole, but the fans clearly love the player who self-identifies as “the old man” inside the locker room.
And finally, the Gio conundrum. The fall of 2016 was the last period of time LA got DP level production out of the Mexican international. In the present Giovani dos Santos is a massive waste of money who cripples the Galaxy’s ability to compete in a more competitive MLS landscape.
Further complicating matters is the massive pressure the front office will be under this offseason to retain Zlatan. If Ibra wants Designated Player money, the club may have little choice but to offload Gio, even it if means eating his six million dollar guaranteed salary. Out of self-interest, it may be mutually beneficial for the elder dos Santos to depart this winter as well.
The question is, who’s going to be doing the offloading? An executive who’s job performance has come under considerable scrutiny, LA Galaxy President Chris Klein has spoken in vague terms about mixing up the front office, but until substantial changes are made the organization appears to be stuck in neutral.