MLS Week 4 was as much about what happened off the field as what occurred on it.
Official word came Friday that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is indeed coming to conquer Los Angeles and America, and when the Galaxy introduced a lion side by side with its father Zlatan, the excitement level and reality of his arrival both sank in. It's possible that Ibrahimovic, fresh off an injury layoff with Manchester United, plays for the Galaxy as soon as this weekend's first derby vs. LAFC, and that will certainly be a must-see Hollywood event.
On the field, there were plenty of highlights, too. The New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew continued to stockpile points while proving doubters wrong, while eye-opening equalizers and points accrued by shorthanded teams were scattered across the six-game Saturday slate.
Here's the best from another abbreviated week across the league:
I. You shouldn't be sleeping on the Red Bulls
Says the guy who picked them to miss the playoffs. All credit to Jesse Marsch's side for taking Minnesota United to the woodshed with some absolutely beautiful play. Bradley Wright-Phillips scored two more goals, while Alex Muyl, much maligned for his early-season play, delivered what may wind up being the assist of the season with this gorgeous long ball forward for BWP.
The upcoming Concacaf Champions League semifinals vs. Chivas Guadalajara and back-to-back clashes at the Galaxy and vs. NYCFC on April 28 and May 5 will give us a great barometer of how good this team really is, but the early returns are incredibly promising and a testament to the framework Marsch has in place for whoever steps on the field donning red.
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II. This is an impressive stat
So, yeah, Wright-Phillips has been a pretty decent signing.
III. This is impressive signage
So, yeah, Red Bulls fans are in good early-season form, too.
IV. Galaxy stumble amid absences
The goals will come for the Galaxy, but with injuries and international absences decimating Sigi Schmid's lineup, the club struggled in a 0-0 draw vs. Vancouver. Of note, though, was Schmid rolling to a three-man back and a two-forward set, which figures to eventually have Ibrahimovic and Ola Kamara teaming together up top. Speaking of Kamara ...
V. Ola gets it done overseas
It shouldn't shock anyone if Kamara outscores Ibrahimovic the rest of the way this season, given his track record and start with his new club. And while the Galaxy were busy introducing the man who will steal the headlines from him, he thrashed World Cup-bound Australia to the tune of a hat trick. Don't sleep on LA's "other" forward.
VI. Welcome to MLS, rookie
There was probably just something on the BC Place turf that caused Tomas Hilliard-Arce to stumble like this ...
VII. This is how you equalize
Sporting Kansas City has gone from the team that played the most grind-it-out games in the league to the one that entertains every time out. And this stoppage-time equalizer from Diego Rubio–off Khiry Shelton's back-heel assist–to salvage a 2-2 draw vs. Colorado certainly dazzled.
VIII. This, too, is how you equalize
Well hello, Sebastian Blanco! Though the most important aspect of this match for Portland is Diego Chara's return to action for the first time all season. Timbers fans will happily welcome more 90-minute shifts from their key midfield cog.
IX. Federico Higuain, the 50-50 man
The 50-goal, 50-assist club in MLS is an exclusive one, and it has a 19th member. Federico Higuain joined countryman Diego Valeri as the only active ones of it with his two-assist showing in yet another impressive showing for Gregg Berhalter's Columbus Crew, a 3-1 win over D.C. United.
The match also featured goalscorers for the Crew that are 16 years apart in age, with 19-year-old Milton Valenzuela opening the scoring and 35-year-old Ricardo Clark tallying the eventual game-winner.
X. Landon scores in San Jose
The year is 2003. You're told that in 15 years, Landon Donovan, fresh off retirement, will return to San Jose playing for his Mexican club and strike a game-winning golazo. The world is a mysterious place sometimes.
XI. This makes NYCFC's U-17s world champions, right?
O.K., we'll take it down a peg or 10, but NYCFC's youth team beating Real Madrid in the Generation Adidas Cup youth tournament is certainly an eye-opener.
On the senior level, NYCFC remained unbeaten through four games, though it failed to win for the first time in a slightly disappointing 2-2 draw vs. the New England Revolution. That it, like the Galaxy, was decimated by absences certainly played a role, but Ismael Tajouri's second-half double brought the club back from a goal down on a pair of occasions, furthering the narrative that the club's attack can succeed without the injured David Villa.