LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has played in some of the biggest rivalries in football. Now he is getting ready to play in the "El Trafico" local derby vs. LAFC. The Swedish striker joined Taylor Twellman in the Heineken ESPN FC Boot Room to chat about how he has taken to MLS. The following is an edited transcript of the chat.
Q. Friday night will be the third time LAFC and LA Galaxy have met this season. The first two games were filled with a ton of drama, what do you expect to happen?
A. I think the same atmosphere, fantastic atmosphere. This time it's our home field [advantage] and I expect good football. They are playing good, we are playing good, and [we are] two good teams. We are the rivals in L.A., but I think the rivalry is fresh because it's the third game and they are new. The Galaxy has been there for many years.
Q. You've played in some of the biggest rivalries around the world. Are you surprised how quickly this one got going?
A. It's a new team, LAFC, and it came this year. It is the year I came also, so a lot of things are happening in MLS and the football is growing and the competition is growing -- you just have to see the cities where it's popping up and I'm not surprised. I think it's good for the football, good for the fans, and good for the competition because it gives you more competitive games and more heated games where there's a lot of emotions involved.
Q. You've played LAFC twice. Where do you think their biggest weaknesses are going into this game?
A. I think they're good in general. They don't have one that's better than the other one. I think it's a good team. Everything is hyped for them, because it's new. They have a big boost -- new stadium, new players, new club, new coach -- so everything is new ... but they're doing good things. There's nothing negative to say about them or to complain about.
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Q. With only one win in your last six games, is it a must-win game for the Galaxy?
A. I think the remaining games we have are all important games. There is no game more important than the other one. Of course, this one is two teams from L.A. -- you win to say who is the boss in the town -- but at the end of the day it's the three points that are important and [reaching] the playoffs. That is what counts in the end. If you win this one and lose the rest, this win doesn't matter.
Q. What's been the biggest struggle, from your point of view, for the Galaxy?
A. It's been a lot of up and down. Some games we've been doing very good; some games less good. Basic mistakes we make that we pay for, cost us a lot. Like conceding goals and then we have to chase the goals. And we haven't been on top -- I mean, our level hasn't been up where normally it should be. And the consequences are we are losing the games and paying for it.
Q. Are you surprised?
A. I think every team is working the same. You have a period where you do good, then you have a period where you do less good. For example, you take Wayne Rooney's team, DC United. They were doing bad, suddenly he comes and they're doing good and they're in the picture. So it's very up and down.
There is no [like Europe] feeling where you have two or three teams that are very stable and are dominating the league. I don't see anyone -- maybe Atlanta is doing better than the other ones -- but that is the same thing like LAFC: a new team, everything is a boost, everything is "wow" for the moment.
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Q. Do you think the Galaxy can right the ship and make the playoffs?
A. I think so. We have a very good team. The opponents who play against us, they respect the team. We give them a hard time, and I think when we lose a game it's not like we're outplayed, except for the last game where the result speaks for itself. It's only about the small details: organization, small, basic mistakes, small details that make a big difference.
Q. You've played 19 games in MLS. What's your biggest takeaway about the league?
A. I find it very exciting, in the way that anything can happen. Crazy results. I see the atmosphere is nice, at least the games I've been playing. I cannot judge the other games. And I like the way the game is played -- not always, but as a striker it's very good because you get a lot of chances and it's all about focusing and scoring your goals. And the chances will come, whatever happens, wherever you play, the chances will come.