CARSON, Calif. – Zlatan Ibrahimovic's first MLS road trip spiked ticket sales in Chicago, with the Fire's game Saturday afternoon against the LA Galaxy (3:30 pm ET | Univision, Twitter - Full TV & Streaming Info) selling out this week.
How concerned should those with seats be that the Swedish superstar didn't train with the Galaxy this week in Southern California? Not very.
The plan is to get Ibrahimovic some quality minutes, as a starter or, more likely, again off the bench, but he wasn't slated to get his first workout on grass this week until the team arrived Thursday in Chicago.
He worked downstairs, in the gym at StubHub Center, during Tuesday's recovery session following Sunday's loss to Sporting Kansas City, and scheduled maintenance on his knee forced him off the field Wednesday, too.
“There's a precautionary thing with his knee sometimes,” head coach Sigi Schmid explained. “With knees, they do injections and stuff like that, so it's just letting that injection recover. ... He didn't take a day off because of his knee. This was part of a planned, regular situation. There's nothing that was a surprise or that we were unaware of.”
Ibrahimovic suffered massive ligament damage in his right knee during a UEFA Champions League match with Manchester United a year ago and had seen action in just seven games before shutting down in late December, he said, “because I didn't feel 100 percent. I didn't feel ready.” His spectacular 20 minutes against LAFC two weekends ago and half-hour against Sporting were his first game minutes since then.
The trek to Illinois is his first trip with LA, his first experience with the kind of travel that's a normal part of playing in MLS but vastly different from what he experienced during two decades in Europe.
“As I told him, 'Hey, welcome, you're finally getting used to the time zone, so we'll go for a two-hour time change just so you can get used to all that stuff,'” Schmid said. “That's part of what makes our league different, and that's part of not just him but what every player needs to be able to learn how to deal with and adjust to.”
This is a simple trip, not particularly different or more difficult than some of the Champions League treks Ibrahimovic has taken. He'll get a better taste next month, when the Galaxy have successive games in Houston, Dallas and Montreal.
“You have to experience it ...,” Schmid said. “He's experienced things like that before. I mean, he's experienced playing in a Champions League game, where if you're playing a game in Moscow, it's a similar trek with time change and so forth, but you don't generally have it as frequently as we have it.”
Schmid wouldn't reveal whether the 6-foot-5 Ibrahimovic would be flying first-class or coach, but he joshed that “we told him we'd only fly him on Southwest [Airlines],” in which seats are selected only after boarding the plane.
The Galaxy are getting healthier, although Schmid said it was “probably a fair statement” to say that Giovani dos Santos, who has missed three and a half games with a hamstring injury, was unlikely to be available. Dos Santos trained on the field Wednesday but left the session early.
“I think I need one or two games to be 100 percent,” Alessandrini said. “I missed five weeks and three games, so it wasn't easy for me, but I need to get fit quickly.”