Ibrahimovic Bests Schweinsteiger in Clash of Two Former MUFC Teammates


It’s extremely rare, in any league or country, to see a club match featuring two footballers as accomplished as what we saw in Bridgeview, Illinois today. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the L.A. Galaxy beat Bastian Schweinsteiger and the Chicago Fire 1-0 Saturday in a match played in winter conditions. Ibrahimovic provided the only scoring of the game, just before the stroke of half time, off an excellent pass from teammate Ashley Cole.

There was such high demand to see this match, despite the ridiculously unseasonable cold, intermittent rain and strong winds that additional seating and standing room accommodations were made to the stadium. It’s well justified too; as Ibrahimovic and Schweinsteiger have combined to win 21 European league championships between them.

Ibrahimovic has won 13, in Italy, Spain, France and Holland, while Schweinsteiger has won eight. Indeed this was a reunion that was highly anticipated and greatly hyped.

(Editor’s note: I lent my expertise to this ABC 7 Chicago piece on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, have a watch below:)

The duo played one season together at Manchester United, last year, on a side that won three trophies (EFL Cup, Community Shield and Europa League). Schweinsteiger left for Chicago in late March, but still earned a Europa League medal, due to the minutes he had logged earlier in the tournament.

Despite the beyond atrocious winter conditions, the match drew 21,195 fans, good for the largest regular season attendance in Toyota Park history.

Ibrahimovic was greeted with a reception that was more befitting a hometown hero, not a visiting member of the opposition. He was loudly cheered during his introduction, and fans booed when he was subbed off in the 80′ for Emmanuel Boateng, because they didn’t want to see him go.

“It was cool. I heard they never fill the stadium, so I should come often,” Ibrahimovic joked after the match. He even described the result in an extremely poetic manner.

“We come with the sun, they come with the wind, but the sun was the stronger today,” said the only player to score in the UEFA Champions League with six different teams.

Ibrahimovic had numerous other scoring chances, but couldn’t convert. He’s obviously not completely match fit right now, and far from the Ibra we’ve come to know when he’s at his peak. His Galaxy team dominated the first half, and easily could have had more goals. They even had one score waived off.

“I don’t want to have an excuse, because if I do something wrong it is my fault, I could easily blame the wind or whatever but I won’t,” the mercurial Swede added.

“I should have scored.”

As for Schweinsteiger and the Fire, they came roaring back in the second half, providing a match that was paradigmatic of the proverbial tale of two halves.

However, they were never able to equalize, and thus they walked away from this one with no points.  Schweinsteiger continued to play in the back line, instead of in his usual midfield role, and thus he was going one-on-one with Ibrahimovic quite a bit today.

zlatan ibrahimovic

“He can play in any position and always impacts the game in a positive way,” said Chicago Fire manager Veljko Paunovic of his having to use the captain of the 2014 World Cup winning side in central defense. 

“If you think Bastian can play as a 10, he can play as a 10, he can play as a 9, and he can even play as a goalkeeper,” he continued.

“Bastian is exceptional and I am very thankful to our owner and general manager for doing everything in their power to bring him here last season because this way we can get the best results from our team, but I think last season, and he showed it in this game, that Bastian also enters into distinct roles throughout the game and he has no problem doing so. “

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.

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