While Zlatan Ibrahimović's future with the Los Angeles Galaxy might be uncertain, his immediate impact has them back above the playoff line in the Western Conference.
The Galaxy look to remain in playoff position while trying to win back-to-back games for the first time since May on Saturday night against the visiting Montreal Impact, who must end their current road struggles while trying to remain a serious postseason contender.
According to a report on ESPN.com and posted on the official website of MLS, Los Angeles general manager Dennis te Kloese said he will deal with Ibrahimović, whose contract is about to run out, after the 2019 campaign ends. Ibrahimović, a designated player, has 26 goals in 25 games this season and recently labeled himself the "best-ever" player in MLS history.
Strong words, but some that Ibrahimović has actually been able to back up - via a small sample size. He posted three of the 48 MLS goals he's registered in less than two seasons in the league during a 7-2 rout of Sporting Kansas City last weekend.
"Zlatan is a very special case," te Kloese said as reported on mlssoccer.com. "If you watched (against Kansas City) how we helped the team, he is committed to the club, to the fans and it is very special. It's a luxury to have him."
Sebastian Lletget added a brace against SKC for the Galaxy, who ended an 0-2-2 stretch and now sit fifth in the West entering this matchday. Los Angeles last won consecutive league contests om May 24 and 29.
While L.A. shouldn't breathe easy for the moment, Montreal (11-16-4) has hardly any room for error while sitting just below the playoff line in the Eastern Conference - three points back of a New England side that owns the seventh and final playoff spot in the East. The Impact will look to avoid a third consecutive league defeat after falling at home to lowly FC Cincinnati last weekend.
Montreal allowed a first-minute goal to Cincinnati and was unable to manager any offense while putting just one shot on target. The Impact did somewhat rebound from that defeat by beating rival Toronto FC in the first leg of the Canadian Championship this week, but that does nothing for their status in MLS.
Of course, it offers some momentum and confidence to take into this potentially difficult road task. Then again, Montreal is in danger of losing for an eighth straight time overall on the road, which would tie a club record. The Impact are also 0-2-1 all-time at Los Angeles.
"It's a mental game," Impact coach Wilmer Cabrera told the official website of MLS. "When everything starts moving well, it's contagious. When you see Nacho Piatti playing well, then you see Saphir Taider playing well, the defenders stopping and tackling the ball … that generates good vibes and good momentum."
It's uncertain if Montreal will have the services of either Bojan Krkic and Maxi Urruti, who were both injured in the Canadian Championship. Taider has a team-high nine goals, but none in his last five league matches.
Updated September 19, 2019