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In defense of Zlatan (and yes, Bob Bradley)

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SOCCER: OCT 24 MLS Cup Playoffs - LA Galaxy at LAFC Photo by Kyusung Gong/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

To out-of-towners and even those who flew in for the big occasion, the rivalry between the LA Galaxy and Los Angeles Football Club can seem like fun and games.

For the players, the fans, the media...it’s a grind. There’s the famous El Trafico headaches the mornings after matches, for some a consequence of too much alcohol and others the culmination of mental anguish. The look on Carlos Vela’s face watching baseball at Dodger Stadium the day after the original Trafico tells the story.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Bob Bradley were criticized in the wake of LAFC’s 5-3 victory over the LA Galaxy for inappropriate behavior of varying degrees. Was the criticism a bit excessive? Asking the two most intense personalities of the rivalry to compose themselves seconds after the contest seems like a bit much.

If you’re Bob Bradley, there’s no way your heart isn’t pulsating like mad for 90 minutes. And with good reason: LA can basically score at a moment’s notice. Like, imagine minding your own business then all of a sudden Zlatan’s scoring a wonder goal and running in your direction then yelling at you. Scary stuff.

So when Bob finally won the big one, you’d expect him to be hot. Radiator cap hot. Shortly thereafter, a reporter popped the cap.

Without getting into the question, perhaps it’s best to let these guys cool off for a minute before expecting their best behavior.

Speaking of which...

Zlatan had to deal with an equally ridiculous scene. Upon exiting the obnoxiously narrow path from the pitch to the tunnel, Ibra was verbally abused by a pair of gesticulating yahoos, one of whom pulled off the impressive feat of looking and acting like an uncircumcised dick.

“Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s possible final act for Galaxy is neither classy nor satisfying” tsk tsked the LA Times’ Dylan Hernandez.

Get lost.

Look, this idea that professional athletes have to put up with abuse from floor level fans motioning violently towards them from just feet away is absolutely ridiculous. Zlatan is a lion, not a caged lion in a zoo to be provoked from fans who should understand seating in such close proximity to the players is a privilege, not a right. I’m sure Banc of California’s Code of Conduct isn’t “Do whatever you want”.

Say what you will about Ibra’s provocative comments afterwards (ESPN FC’s Brian McBride had a word), but Zlatan and Bob’s behavior in the immediate aftermath of a heated match should be remembered for reflecting the passion on display during the contest and nothing more.