D.C. United weathers Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal to tie Paris Saint-Germain in friendly
By Steven Goff,
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris Saint-Germain’s marquee summer signing, needed about two minutes to show what he intends to wreak on the French league this season. D.C. United used most of the stormy evening to regain its footing after a rough few weeks.
In the end, both sides seemed satisfied: PSG introduced one of the world’s most accomplished strikers and United enjoyed some fine moments during a 1-1 draw Saturday night in front of 13,176 at RFK Stadium.
Ibrahimovic, a Swedish striker acquired from AC Milan, scored 131 seconds into his preseason debut on a magnificent moment of attacking prowess. After a 45-minute lightning delay, Dwayne De Rosario equalized on a penalty kick for United, which has lost three of four in the MLS regular season.
“It was good for the guys, most importantly by the way we played,” De Rosario said. “If we can play with PSG, we can play with any team. Saying that, we just have to show up and play with that same confidence.”
Backup goalkeeper Joe Willis made three superb stops in second-half stoppage time to preserve the tie.
With the regulars in need of work, United Coach Ben Olsen summoned a standard lineup, with one notable exception: Chinese forward Long Tan, who previously played in the second half of a July 21 Major League Soccer match against the Columbus Crew. In the second half, Olsen made eight substitutions and didn’t see a drop in performance.
“Throughout the group, it was a really good exercise for us,” Olsen said. “There weren’t too many performances I wasn’t happy with.”
PSG was ecstatic about Ibrahimovic. Listed at 6 feet 4 with a powerful build and long hair, he had a conspicuous presence even when he didn’t have the ball at his feet. Emiliano Dudar, United’s 6-4 center back, looked like a normal-size player for a change.
As the match entered the third minute, Ibrahimovic collected possession in stride and reversed direction with a back-heeled touch. He pushed the ball from defender Daniel Woolard and then hit it so quickly and with such venom and pinpoint placement that goalkeeper Bill Hamid’s full extension was futile.
The entire sequence seemed to unfold with so little effort — touch, touch, wham! — and was executed by a player who mixes nuance with brawn.
“He showed fantastic ability in that situation,” PSG Coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “This is Ibrahimovic.”
After the delay, United answered with De Rosario’s penalty kick in the 33rd minute. PSG defender Milan Bisevac had his arm extended when Woolard’s cross struck him in the hand.
Lacking full fitness after joining PSG this week, Ibrahimovic came off in the 38th minute.
United held up well defensively. Outside backs Woolard and Chris Korb blocked shots deep in the box, and Dudar, who lost his starting job this summer, was sharp.
“Dudar’s passing helps us. Over 90 minutes, the amount of possession he gives you is real,” Olsen said. “Defensively, he had a pretty good day too.”
Both sides manufactured several promising chances in a second half otherwise cluttered by substitutions.
“We played some good stuff,” midfielder Danny Cruz said. “You get a result against PSG, it’s a good sign. We need all the momentum we can get.”
United notes: Raphael Augusto, a 21-year-old central midfielder from Brazil, will join the club on loan from Fluminense.
He most recently played on loan in Brazil’s second division. Augusto is awaiting visa and transfer approval.
United gained an international roster slot when Maicon Santos, also Brazilian, was granted permanent residency (green card) this week.