Steve Carrillo

MLS Media Day – Ibrahimovic, Kamara hopeful for Galaxy turnaround

Unhappy with the way last year ended, Ibrahimovic and Kamara see better days ahead for the Galaxy.

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ola Kamara made it through the gauntlet of MLS Media Day on Saturday and rotated through multiple hotel rooms, ballrooms and conference rooms while answering questions, recording promotional material and participating in roundtable discussions.

But – to no one’s surprise — it was Ibrahimovic who brought his already-in-season quote machine and waxed poetically about the Galaxy and Major League Soccer. Kamara, on the other hand, took a more analytical approach to the bevy of reporters sitting in front of them.

The bottom line, however, is Ibrahimovic is ready for the start of the 2019 season. He’s already complaining about the longest off-season of his life.

“I look forward for the next season,” he said. “I’m just waiting to start with the preparation. But the vacation was too long. I’ve never had so long a break.

“I feel I have much more to give to the Galaxy and the MLS. The way we ended the season was not a situation normal for me. Because normally where I go, I win. And I won wherever I went.

“I didn’t succeed with that here,” he continued, “and that for me was not OK.”

Ibrahimovic is returning to the Galaxy after recently agreeing to a new one-year contract that makes him the league’s highest-paid player at a reported $7.2 million. He is confident the money will be well-spent by the Galaxy.

“Finally,” he smiled when Corner of the Galaxy acknowledged his significant pay raise. Last year he earned $1.5 million. “What I bring to the table, last year I came under special conditions. I came with these strict rules you have in the U.S., with the MLS. For me it’s not important. Those things are only numbers. So last year I was not talking about it and this year I will not talk about it.

“From being the worst-paid to best, for me, it’s the same situation because I still have to perform. And I performed being the worst-paid. Imagine now how I will perform being the best-paid.”

Ibrahimovic scored 22 goals and added 10 assists in 2018, but the Galaxy’s elimination from the MLS Cup playoffs on the final day of the regular season left a bitter taste in his mouth. And falling just 45 minutes short of the postseason seemed to awaken the giant from within.

“For me to make the playoffs (in) the sixth position is also catastrophic,” he said. “Either you’re No. 1 or you’re nothing.

“If you come first in the regular season, it means you’re the best. If you win the playoffs, which is some kind of bonus, then you’re the best. But if you come sixth, and to win, it’s like you slip on a banana (peel).

“So, whatever we came, sixth or seventh, for me it doesn’t change,” he went on. “The only difference is you make it to the playoffs.”

Ola Kamara plays against the Seattle Sounders on September 23, 2018 at StubHub Center in Carson, CA -- Photo by Steve Carrillo
Ola Kamara plays agains the Seattle Sounders on September 23, 2018 at StubHub Center in Carson, CA — Photo by Steve Carrillo

Kamara, who entered the media room about three hours after Ibrahimovic, was a little more reflective on the 2018 campaign and on the club’s off-season roster-building. And with the Galaxy re-signing so many players, he was pondering the chemistry the club already will have entering preseason.

Training camp opened Sunday with player physicals.

“Obviously, the season didn’t go how we wanted last year,” Kamara conceded. “But I think we had the quality on the team and getting that organization and all the players, I think that was their first priority.

“But you see that we have re-signed a lot of good players too, so it shows that they were happy about the quality we had with the squad as well.”

Kamara made 31 appearances and scored 14 goals. The partnership between him and Ibrahimovic was a key driver for what the Galaxy did last season.

“I think how we play offensively is also the possession-wise,” he revealed. “How we build the attack, and I think that’s how we can do it, it was a little bit random how we scored a lot.

“It was individual quality a lot.”

But under a new head coach – Guillermo Barros Schelotto, late of Argentina’s Boca Juniors, is known for his attacking teams – Kamara may find an answer to the offense that is based on more than just individual quality. And he wasn’t shy about talking about the club’s key off-season acquisition.

“I think the most important part was getting the coach,” Kamara explained. “That was the most important piece. I think that probably now, you will see in the next couple of weeks, probably, he will bring some players that he wants as well.”

Kamara acknowledged he hasn’t heard from Schelotto, but he didn’t hesitate to scout the former MLS Cup Most Valuable Player. In fact, a tip from Galaxy defender Jorgen Skjelvik led him to Netflix where the Norwegian striker found “Boca Juniors Confidencial” and started watching the documentary series on the ride to the hotel.

“I’ve only watched two episodes, but it seems like it’s very physically demanding,” he laughed. “I mean they call the guy (Valdecantos) “The Butcher” — the physical guy.

“Preseason is probably going to be hard.”

And while it’s a new start under Schelotto and first-year general manager Dennis te Kloese, Kamara believes this year is going to be different than the disappointment of 2018.“I think this year is going to be a good year,” he said.