Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic did not participate in the team’s on-field training session Thursday and will miss his second consecutive game Saturday when the Galaxy play unbeaten Minnesota United at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said he was unclear on the extent of Ibrahimovic’s Achilles’ injury but said he hoped the player could return to practice next week. After Saturday the Galaxy won’t play again until March 31, when they meet Portland.
“I’m not sure because I’m not a doctor. But I’ve been talking with the doctor, with the physio, with [Ibrahimovic] and we hope he plays against Portland.
“He’ll come with us when we know — and he knows — everything is OK to play. We don’t want to take a risk. The game with Portland is very important for us but we need to think about the team and about him.”
Also out for Saturday is midfielder Romain Alessandrini, who has a strained hamstring. He, too, is expected to return to training next week.
Ibrahimovic, who missed last week’s loss in Dallas, hasn’t been on a soccer field since scoring the winning goal in the Galaxy’s season-opening 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire on March 2. He injured his Achilles during that game and at the beginning of this week, more than eight days after the injury, the team still appeared uncertain whether the tendon was simply strained or whether there was a small tear.
If there is no rupture, it’s possible Ibrahimovic could return next week. But a tear, depending on the severity, could be far more serious, especially given the fact Ibrahimovic is 37.
The Chicago game was played on a wet field and Ibrahimovic, who changed cleats during the match, said his Achilles began to ache just 10 minutes after kickoff. At one point Ibrahimovic squatted on the field in apparent discomfort.
Without Ibrahimovic, the Galaxy is thin at forward since Ola Kamara, the team’s second-leading scorer last season, left for China on a $3.5-million transfer four days before the opener. Two days later the team bought out the final $6-million-plus owed to Gio dos Santos.
The Galaxy started Chris Pontius at that position last week, then brought 20-year-old Ethan Zubak off the bench but neither had a shot on goal. Schelotto said the team may change formations this week, pushing Mexican Uriel Antuna up top as a center forward.
“We don’t have a striker without Ibra, without Ola,” he said. “We are working to bring somebody. But right now we need to figure out the problem with Atuna, with Chris.”
For Ibrahimovic, the Achilles problem is the second injury that has sidelined him for multiple games in the last two years. The Swedish superstar’s career appeared over when he sustained significant damage to the ligaments in his right knee while playing for Manchester United in April 2017. But after surgery and a grueling rehab regiment, he returned to the field after just six months.
Last season he scored a Western Conference-high 22 goals and added 10 assists in 27 games for the Galaxy in his first season in MLS. That performance was rewarded with a league-record $7.2-million contract in December.