Carson, CA. – It has been a week of buildup for the LA Galaxy, and much of that has nothing to do with Saturday’s first-ever meeting with inner-city rival Los Angeles FC at StubHub Center (noon, FOX).
There’s also the little matter of the burgeoning hype surrounding the arrival of Swedish standout Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who recently left English Premier League powerhouse Manchester United to join the five-time MLS Cup champions.
The 36-year-old who has more than 30 trophies to his credit while plying his trade in Europe is expected to arrive in Southern California on Thursday and take part in his first training session with the Galaxy on Friday.
Could he play against LAFC? Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid was being coy with his answer on Wednesday.
“We will see,” he told reporters. “We will see how he is when he arrives. We have to see how he is physically and everything else.
“I think there’s a chance he can play a part in the game. I don’t think he’s going to play 90 minutes, but we have to evaluate once he gets here. We’ll have to see how he feels.”
Ibrahimovic has had a slow recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, but Schmid said he wasn’t worried about his status. Ibrahimovic hasn’t played for United since last Dec. 26 in a 2-2 tie against EPL side Burnley.
“We’re not too concerned because we’ve gotten the reports from doctors and the physical people at Manchester (United),” Schmid said. “Physically, they said he was fine. He was able to train; maybe it was a little more of a coach’s decision than anything else.
“Obviously he’s a very confident individual and feels he can come and play. But we’ve also talked about, ‘Let’s see how you feel and how everything is.’ We’ll evaluate Friday morning.”
BRING ‘EM ON
The Galaxy’s Baggio Husidic is the team’s lone member who was around when the Galaxy faced Chivas USA and remembers little about the rivalry other than “us beating them badly every game.”
Husidic, now in his eighth season, said he expects this weekend’s atmosphere at StubHub Center to surpass that of the meetings with Chivas USA, which ceased operations following the 2014 season.
“We’re pretty excited for this game. There’s been a lot of buzz around the city,” he said. “It’s nice to see a different perspective from fans who support LAFC and fans who support the Galaxy.
“It will be fun to hear those conversations. It’s going to be a big rivalry from now on, so that will be exciting.”
Schmid said part of the problem regarding the Chivas rivalry was the fact the team was based at StubHub Center, which just happens to be the Galaxy’s headquarters.
“I think with Chivas having their offices here it was almost too familiar,” he said. “Yes, they were the enemy, but they were also friends at the same time. We have friends over at LAFC for sure, but they’re the enemy and they view us as the enemy as well.
“We’ll see how it develops. It’s something that time will tell how big a rivalry it will become.”
THERE’S NO ‘I’ IN TEAM
Galaxy defender Dan Steres was honored with a place on mlssoccer.com’s team of the week for his performance in last Saturday’s scoreless draw in Vancouver, but he took more pleasure in the team’s overall effort.
“It’s always nice to be recognized,” he acknowledged, “but the shutout was the biggest thing. We played a good team and we changed our formation. We locked them down.”
Injuries, international absences and suspensions forced the Galaxy to implement a 3-5-2 strategy which featured Steres at right back, rookie Tomas Hilliard-Arce on the left and Jorgen Skjelvik in the middle of the back line.
“I was excited to try it because of what we had to go with based on the players we had available,” Steres said. “We had a lot of defenders who have been pushing themselves hard in the preseason and the beginning of the season, so I think everyone deserved to get on the field.
“It was good to see us all come through and work together.”
He also said he found the tie especially satisfying considering the Galaxy’s limited resources last weekend.
“Everyone else thought we weren’t going to get anything going in there,” he said, “but we actually thought we were going to get all three points.
“We’ll take a point going up to Vancouver. It’s a tough place to play.”
MAKING HIS MARK
Skjelvik, a Norwegian defender who joined the club in mid-December, quickly has made an impression on Schmid and his coaching staff.
“I think Jorgen’s been good,” Schmid said. “He’s a little bit of an underrated player. The last game was a good example of that. There were two balls knocked over the top, and (Vancouver Whitecaps center forward) Kei Kamara is about as fast as any forward in the league, and Jorgen was able to catch him, get to the ball first and make the play look simple.
“Those are things that he does. He’s organizing more. He’s been very consistent and very solid, and that’s what we needed.”
Skjelvik said the adjustments to a new league have been going well, along with a few surprises.
“There are a lot of athletes. Big, strong, fast guys,” he said. “There’s more technical play than what I had heard before. I didn’t really expect that.
“There’s more and more South Americans coming into the league, too. It’s increasing the level of play.”
He said he feels his own performances are “getting there,” as long as he doesn’t have to play on the kind of artificial turf he dealt with last weekend in Vancouver.
“It was a bad field,” he said with a grin. “If there’s somewhere worse than that, I’m going to struggle to play there.”