CARSON, Calif. – Zlatan Ibrahimovic says Ola Kamara's departure for China will have little impact on how the LA Galaxy play, and that the pieces might fit better in new coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto's setup without the Norwegian striker.
Kamara's transfer to Shenzhen FC, announced Thursday, leaves LA with just three forwards on the roster – Ibrahimovic, Chris Pontius and Giovani dos Santos – and has Barros Schelotto preparing for Saturday's opener at home against the Chicago Fire (8 pm ET | FS1) with a one-forward alignment after using Kamara and Ibrahimovic up top much of preseason.
“With Ola [leaving], it doesn't change nothing,” Ibrahimovic, whom Barros Schelotto this month appointed captain, said after the Galaxy's training session Thursday at Dignity Health Sports Park. “He was a striker, so he was in my position, and [when] we played [in a two-forward system], he became like a fake No. 10 or whatever you say. And now you put in a player that has this position originally, who I think now that the team will fit more the system that we're playing.”
At times during preseason, it was Ibrahimovic dropping deeper with Kamara, who played much of last season on the flank, above him. The slot in the middle underneath Ibrahimovic is designed for Dos Santos, who missed much of last year with injury, has seen very little on-field training during preseason and will not be available Saturday.
Other options include Sebastian Lletget, currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, and Jonathan dos Santos, Gio's brother, whose chief role is as a No. 8 in front of the backline. First-round draft pick Emil Cuello appears likeliest to take the spot against Chicago.
Ibrahimovic said he wasn't surprised to see Kamara depart.
"For us, the responsibility is to listen and respect the player's desire."— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) March 1, 2019
DTK chimes in on Ola Kamara's transfer abroad 👇 pic.twitter.com/mn25q00Oak
“When a player wants to leave, you find a solution, and you let him go. If he doesn't want to stay, you let him go,” he said. “I had the feeling he didn't want to stay, and, hopefully, he's more happy now.”
The Swedish striker, who missed three preseason games with a minor groin injury, says he feels good and is ready to go.
“I've been participating in almost everything, and the team is feeling good,” he said. “We look forward for the [opening] game, finally, because it's been too long we haven't played. We've been working out a lot, hard, and that's it. Now the real thing starts, and the most fun, and that's the official games.”
Barros Schelotto has emphasized defense and organization, he said, and has been very detailed about his “overall view of the field.”
“He's doing it very good,” said Ibrahimovic, who scored 22 goals with 10 assists in 27 games with the Galaxy last season. “And we're working everyday with those things.”
Ibrahimovic, at 37, remains very motivated, more so after LA failed to reach the postseason for the second straight year.
“I don't feel satisfied, and especially last season, what happened,” he said. “I want to do more, but to do that, I need to work more, and I push myself everyday. If you know me or ask my teammates, everyday I'm pushing everybody, pushing myself to do more.
“I believe in the way you train in the way you play the games, and every day has to be a performance. So I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think the key is not to be satisfied.”
He notes that Saturday's opener will be special, with a pregame unveiling of David Beckham's statue in the new “Legends Court” in front of DHSP's main offices, a new coach's debut, and “a lot of things happening in the club.”
“I think many are curious what it's all about, and the players have a big will,” Ibrahimovic said. “They're motivated to play the game, so just have to go out and do our jobs. And the fans are doing their jobs always, they're giving us a lot of support, so we should just go out and give them what they deserve.”
Beckham, who helped the Galaxy win MLS Cup titles in 2011 and 2012, will be present for the unveiling and the game.
“I have a lot of memories with David,” Ibrahimovic said. “He's a good guy, a fantastic guy, on the field, outside the field. I'm happy for him. He gets a statue and he's super happy. Hopefully [the statue] looks good, like him also, so he's even more happy. And hopefully, we make it a good game so everything goes well.”