When the Galaxy added Zlatan Ibrahimovic last month, coach Sigi Schmid’s task was to find a way to integrate the Swedish superstar into the offense.
Instead Ibrahimovic has become the offense, scoring the team’s last three goals and leading L.A. in both scoring and shots on goal. When he finds the back of the net, the Galaxy win. When he doesn’t, they don’t.
And they didn’t Saturday, with both the Galaxy getting shut out 2-0 against Atlanta United before a sold-out crowd announced at 25,846 at StubHub Center.
Josef Martinez gave United the only goal it needed midway through the first half, tapping in the rebound of a shot that deflected off a Galaxy defender. Miguel Almiron then added an insurance goal on a penalty kick deep in stoppage time.
Martinez’s goal was his sixth of the season; that’s two fewer than the Galaxy have. So while Atlanta leads the East with 17 goals, the Galaxy, who were shut out for the third time, are second to last in the West in scoring.
The Galaxy have failed to score nine times in 21 games since Schmid took over last summer. And the coach had trouble hiding his frustration Saturday.
“We haven’t been able to step on the field and have all 10 players have a good game at the same time,” Schmid said. “There’s always been missing pieces.”
And neither Ola Kamara, the team’s major winter acquisition, nor Romain Alessandrini, last season’s leading scorer, has scored since the first half of the first game.
Schmid stood up for Kamara, who he said “is doing so much dirty work. ... He’s coming back and he’s playing in midfield, he’s defending for others who aren’t coming back.”
Injuries have been a factor in the Galaxy’s slide since the team hasn’t been able to use the same lineup twice this season. They didn’t even wait for the game to start before losing a player Saturday, with midfielder Jonathan dos Santos limping off to the locker room during warmups.
It wasn’t all bad news for the Dos Santos family though, because Jonathan’s older brother Giovani came off the bench midway through the second half, making his first appearance since straining his hamstring in the second week of the season. He then wound up hovering around the midfield stripe, where he was rarely involved in the offense.
“When he’s 60 yards from goal he’s not going to help us win games. I’ve got others who can play 60 yards from goal,” Schmid snapped.
Even a fully healthy Galaxy would have had trouble keeping up with Atlanta United’s quick and deep attack, one led by Martinez, playmaker Almiron and teenager Ezequiel Barco.
Yet despite dominating the game statistically, Atlanta — 5-1-1 and unbeaten in six straight — needed a lucky break on Martinez’s goal, which came at the end of a wild flurry that saw United put three shots off the goalpost in less than two minutes.
The first came from Martinez, who stutter-stepped, then bounced a penalty kick off the left goalpost. About a minute later Galaxy keeper David Bingham redirected an Almiron try from distance off the crossbar, and seconds after that, Julian Gressel’s right-footed shot from the right side of the penalty area also hit the frame.
This time United got lucky, though, with the rebound rolling up the upper body of Galaxy defender Daniel Steres, then falling to Martinez near the goal line for the easy tap-in.
Almiron then sealed the win with his fourth goal of the season.
Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11