Zlatan Ibrahimovic loomed large over RFK Stadium on Saturday in more ways than one.
The prolific 6-foot-5 Swedish striker, signed earlier this month for a reported $25 million, made his Paris Saint-German debut in a friendly against D.C. United and he did not disappoint, scoring in the third minute when he latched onto a through ball from Jeremy Menez before curling a left-footed strike inside the far post.
Aside from that moment of brilliance, though, Ibrahimovic showed a clear lack of fitness at this point in the preseason, making only the occasional run before departing in the 39th minute of the 1-1 draw.
“I feel good, very good,” Ibrahimovic said. “I mean, I scored a goal, and my condition is not 100 percent. I’m still working hard to reach 100 percent and I’ve been training with the team for three, four days. So it’s important for me to play today. I played 30 minutes, and next game hopefully I’ll play more and get in better shape.”
For two of United’s youngest players, goalkeeper Bill Hamid, 21, and midfielder Perry Kitchen, 20, the opportunity to play against Ibrahimovic was both a challenge and a thrill.
“I was definitely trying to make sure the guys knew where Ibrahimovic was because he’s very smart,” Hamid said. “You could see it on the field. He was trying to drift off the defenders once the defenders turn their heads to look at the ball. All I did was let them know to keep an eye on him and it worked out well — he didn’t get any crosses in or any attempts on goal with his head.”
Added Kitchen: “He’s huge. He’s a beast. I think he’s worth every penny they spent on him.”
Looking ahead to the European season, why does Ibrahimovic think PSG will be better than his old team, AC Milan, which also sold Brazilian center back Thiago Silva to the French club?
“Because they lost their two best players,” he said.
LIVERPOOL, TOTTENHAM PLAY TO DRAW
Earlier Saturday, 42,723 turned out at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore for a clash between English Premier League stalwarts Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur. Although the fans did get to see appearances from the likes of Steven Gerrard, Andy Carroll, Gareth Bale and Brad Friedel, the contest ended up being an uneventful 0-0 draw. (Here’s my match report from Baltimore.)
The main culprit for the less-than-spectacular game? The heat. Neither team showed much energy going forward as temperatures in the sun-soaked stadium reached the mid-90s. The 1 p.m. start, necessitated by a Baltimore Orioles night game next door, doomed the match from the start.
D.C. UNITED SIGN BRAZILIAN MIDFIELDER
Amid a flurry of high-profile moves across the league as the transfer window closed Friday, United made a more modest acquisition, adding 21-year-old Brazilian playmaker Raphael Augusto on loan from Rio de Janeiro side Fluminense.
A onetime Brazil under-20 international, Augusto will give United depth behind Branko Boskovic. The move likely doesn’t bode well for central midfielders Kurt Morsink (no league appearances this season) and Stephen King (seven appearances, one start), who both were unused substitutes against PSG despite liberal swaps throughout the match.
The acquisition came after United freed up an international slot when Brazilian striker Maicon Santos got his green card. The club gave special thanks to Rep. James Moran, Virginia Democrat, for helping Santos with the process.