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Flirting with disaster: Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy at risk of disappointing MLS once again

6:19 AM MYT 14/09/2019
Zlatan Ibrahimovic LA Galaxy MLS 2019
A loss to the Colorado Rapids has the LA outfit on the outside looking in as things stand, and a run to the playoffs is not a given

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has produced plenty of headlines this season.  

He's called himself a "Ferrari among Fiats " in MLS, railed against the system of deciding a champion via the playoffs, calling it "sh*t", and explained why he's better than presumptive league MVP Carlos Vela.  He's had eye-popping moments, earned suspensions and done as much as any active player to raise the profile of the league the world over.  

Ibrahimovic has also produced on the field.  

His 23 goals rank second only to Vela in the scoring charts. In August he had a run of three straight games with two goals, including another masterclass against cross-town rival and league-leader Los Angeles FC, a team he has dominated since coming into the league.  

The big Swede brings everything MLS needs in a superstar. The value of the publicity he gives the league with his headline-grabbing words and the highlight-reel goals that get replayed over and over is impossible to quantify.  

And that's exactly why him missing out on the playoffs, again, would be an absolute disaster.  

You see, while Ibrahimovic may think the idea of the playoffs is a bad one, that's not how the public sees it. In the USA, the playoffs are the goal. They're the goal for every team, in every sport. 

In MLS this season 14 teams will make the playoffs. For those who need help with the math, that means more than half of the clubs in Major League Soccer will still be chasing MLS Cup once the regular season ends. 

Finish top half of the table? Congrats, you're in! Not quite top half? Good enough, you get to play as well.  

Yet, here we are, with five games remaining, and if the season ended today the league's biggest star, headlining arguably the league's biggest franchise, would be on the outside looking in.  

Ibrahimovic may be producing goals, but his club isn't producing enough wins.  

In 2017 the Galaxy finished bottom of the Western Conference, missing out on the postseason. Only once before had the Galaxy missed the playoffs in back-to-back years and in an effort to keep it from happening again they signed one of the great strikers in the history of the game, only to see their season end in the regular season yet again.  

The club made the investment to make sure it wouldn't happen again in 2019. 

A new coach who both understood the league and had the chops to attract top players and command their respect, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, came in, along with a new general manager in Dennis te Kloese.

Fresh faces were added to the playing staff as well. U.S. international Joe Corona and Mexican star Uriel Antuna came in to add punch to the attack. Diego Polenta and Giancarlo Gonzalez were brought in to help patch up the defense. And, if that weren't enough, Argentine playmaker Cristian Pavon joined in the summer, adding another star to a midfield that already included Mexico international Jonathan dos Santos and U.S. international Sebastian Lletget.  

Even now, the Galaxy, on paper at least, feel like an MLS Cup contender, especially since they seem to be the one team in the league that has figured out how to deal with Bob Bradley's LAFC side.  

This Galaxy team, with Ibrahimovic leading the line, should never have been in this position.  

And that's why MLS should be worried.  

Their closing run doesn't look daunting. Three of the remaining five games are at home. Four of the five come against teams not currently in the playoff places. It should be straight-forward.  

It won't be.  

Despite all the star power, all the highlights and entertaining interviews, the Galaxy have yet to fully piece together the puzzle on the field.  

Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids was proof positive that Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy have their work cut out for them to even earn a shot at lifting a trophy at the end of the season. 

MLS needs the headlines, the highlights and the rivalry, but the league needs it on the biggest stage. 

If the Galaxy can't manage that, this team will go down as one of the biggest disappointments in MLS history.