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Coming off an outstanding MLS debut, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has set his sights on reaching bigger, more historic heights this season.
The former international superstar has already vowed on the Los Angeles Galaxy's official website that he intends to "break every record in the MLS this season" after he earned the league's Newcomer of the Year award in 2018.
The 37-year-old Ibrahimovic will try to take a step toward his lofty goals and coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto will make his Galaxy debut Saturday night against the visiting Chicago Fire in the season opener for both clubs.
Ibra-mania took hold of Los Angeles last season when the Swede finished with 22 goals and 10 assists in just 27 matches. Ibrahimovic, who has been named captain by Schelotto, looked ready to do more in a full season with the Galaxy when he scored in his first preseason appearance last Saturday, a 3-1 loss to Colorado in the team's final tuneup.
"I hope he has a good season, because it will be very good for us, for every player, for the coaches," Schelotto told the team's official website. "We hope to get good play not just from Ibrahimovic; I think everyone has to have a good season, because it's our work. We are working for that."
Schelotto had hoped to pair the Swede with Ola Kamara up front as the Galaxy try to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2016 after finishing one point short last season. However, the club announced two days before the opener that Kamara is leaving for the Chinese Super League. He had 14 goals in 31 matches in his only season in Los Angeles.
Matt Lampson may have to start in goal for the Galaxy after David Bingham took a shot to the face in the 13th minute against Colorado. Los Angeles allowed the fifth-most goals in the league last season and face a Chicago team that should be much improved behind a talented front six of Dax McCarty, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Aleksandar Katai, Djordje Mihailovic, Przemyslaw Frankowski and Nemanja Nikolic.
After finishing with 24 goals en route to 2017 MLS Golden Boot honors, Nikolic scored a team-high 15 last season. Katai was second on the team with 12, but the Fire had a minus-13 goal differential and ended up 10th in the Eastern Conference.
The Fire, who have missed the playoffs in seven of the past nine years, wrapped up the preseason with a 1-0 win over the Charleston Battery last Saturday in the Carolina Challenge Cup. Fabian Herbers had the lone goal in the 85th minute.
"We're very happy with the performance and our fitness levels," said Fire coach Veljko Paunovic, who signed a multiyear extension with the club in January. "It's definitely important that we have good spirit and a win helps a lot to prepare for the season opener."
Chicago hasn't won in this series since August 2010, going 0-6-4 over the past 10 meetings. Ibrahimovic had the lone tally in the Galaxy's road win on April 14 in the clubs' only matchup last season.
Updated March 1, 2019