It only took Zlatan Ibrahimovic two minutes into Saturday night’s 1-1 draw against D.C. United to show his new club, Paris Saint-Germain, why he’s worth more than $17 million a year.
A perfect through-ball from Jeremy Menez saw the AC Milan transfer in on goal with only one defender to beat. Considering Ibrahimovic is 6-foot-5 and 209 pounds, he’s never had much trouble doing that.
After thinking about taking the shot right away, Ibrahimovic decided to cut in to his left and curled a ball with so much power that D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid’s diving effort had no chance.
“It was interesting that he chose not to shoot the 13-yard shot to pass up for a left-footed curler,” said United coach Ben Olsen. “He’s a pretty impressive guy.”
For the next 36 minutes, the 13,176 at RFK Stadium saw an exhausted, out-of-shape Ibrahimovic. Aside from the occasional run to help defend or to get back to his position, he mainly just stood around and waited for the ball. Making his preseason debut, Ibrahimovic has said he doesn’t feel 100 percent fit yet, and manager Carlo Ancelotti agrees.
“[Ibrahimovic] is not ready for 90 minutes yet, nobody really is,” said Ancelotti at practice on Friday.
Ibrahimovic got the break he needed 22 minutes in when a thunderstrom caused the match to be halted. After a 45-minute delay, play resumed.
It only took United 15 minutes after resumption to equalize from the penalty spot on Dwayne De Rosario’s successful conversion, following a handball inside the box by PSG defender Milan Bisevac. The level of play increased twofold after the delay was over.
“Everyone is getting their first wind under them,” said De Rosario. “After the break, everybody came in with more intensity.”
Although scoreless, the second half provided the fans with a much more entertaining performance from both teams. Every couple minutes the “Oh!” from the crowd would fill the stadium as another counter-attack was thwarted or another shot on goal narrowly missed. Back-and-forth the teams went, but neither could get the elusive game winner.
Into stoppage time, PSG were knocking on United’s door and nearly came away with the winner, but thanks to two acrobatic saves from substitute goalie Joe Willis, the draw was secured.
“I thought the second half was okay, you start making subs and the rhythm of the game changes,” said United forward Josh Wolff. “I think both teams had plenty of chances to get goals and at the end of the night, our goalie made a couple good saves and we missed a couple opportunities. It happens.”
With the normal three-substitution rule discarded, teams could use as many subs as they desired. It’s a common occurrence for clubs to swap out their entire starting 11 over the course of the match.
“We got some minutes for some guys who haven’t had a ton of them,” said Olsen. “And then the subs came in and did a good job.”
The opportunity to play against a team like PSG, which is in the Champions League and finished second in the French top-tier Ligue 1 last season, doesn’t happen very often. The World Football Challenge allows for MLS teams to play against top clubs from all across Europe, while also allowing fans to see their favorite teams play in America.