Chicago: One-time teammates Bastian Schweinsteiger and Zlatan Ibrahimovic enjoyed a smile and a laugh in the tunnel on Saturday before striding onto the frozen tundra of Toyota Park. But that might have been the last warm moment either of them shared in their first MLS matchup.
Because once the introductions were over, the former European superstars spent the next two hours bumping and banging on one another before the Galaxy emerged with a 1-0 victory before an announced crowd of 21,915, the largest for a regular-season game in Toyota Park history.
The weather in suburban Chicago — overcast, windy and with a wind chill of 27 degrees at kickoff — was something both Schweinsteiger and Ibrahimovic are used to after playing together at Manchester United. And neither appeared particularly troubled by the conditions.
Ibrahimovic gave the Galaxy the only score they would need in first-half stoppage time, cutting between Schweinsteiger and Grant Lillard to nod home a left-footed cross from Ashley Cole. It was his team-high third goal in as many games but Schweinsteiger and the rest of the Fire were lucky the score wasn’t more one-sided since the Galaxy found the back of the net twice in the first nine minutes, only to have both scores negated off by offside calls against Ola Kamara.
On the first, a long Romain Alessandrini pass from the right wing set Kamara up for a diving header at the near post, but that goal was quickly waved off. Referee Ted Unkel needed a little more time — and some help from a video review — to take the second one off the board.
After a Sebastian Lletget pass to Kamara ricocheted past Chicago keeper Richard Sanchez, Unkel, who was involved in a couple of controversial reviews in last week’s LAFC-Atlanta United game, went back to the VAR for a closer look. After a slight delay he found Kamara, who was involved in the play yet never touched the ball, was offside again.
The Galaxy (3-2-1) kept the pressure on, and Ibrahimovic — wearing dark gloves and long sleeves beneath his white Galaxy jersey and playing 80 minutes, his longest stint of 2018 — got his team’s next good chance in the 25th minute, leaping for a Jonathan dos Santos feed in front of a wide-open net. Lillard got just enough of the ball to deflect it wide, preventing the goal.
Eight minutes later Ibrahimovic was back again, going one-on-one with Sanchez before the keeper stuck out his left leg to knock the shot away.
The Galaxy conceded the momentum after the intermission, though, with Chicago (1-3-1), chasing the tying goal.
That forced Galaxy keeper David Bingham to make four saves- the toughest on shots from Johan Kappelhof, Nemanja Nikolic and Aleksandar Katai — to preserve both the Galaxy’s first road win and his second shutout of the season.