Galaxy-Minnesota United Preview
While the Los Angeles Galaxy need star Zlatan Ibrahimovic to be at his best in their playoff opener against Minnesota United FC, talk of his future in MLS continues to add to this weekend's storyline.
In what could very well be Ibrahimovic's final game in the league, the visiting Galaxy await a stiff challenge Sunday night from a fourth-seeded Minnesota club that's playing its first-ever MLS playoff contest.
In 56 MLS games, the Swedish star has totaled 53 goals and been one of the most popular draws for fans throughout the league to watch live. However, talk continues about Ibrahimovic's future in MLS. While retirement appears on the horizon for Ibrahimovic, who just turned 38, he reportedly would like to finish his career in his native Sweden.
Also, considering his age and L.A.'s intent to move forward with younger, and cheaper, talent, this could be the end of the superstar's time with the Galaxy and IN MLS - whenever that may be this season.
"I have a contract until (December 31), I think it is," Ibrahimovic, who finished second in the league this year with 30 goals, told the official website of MLS. "Until then, there is no other thoughts (about next year). I respect my contract, and if I leave, (the media) will have less to write about. If I stay, you will have something to write about.
"So, let's see what happens."
In the meantime, the focus for Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy is improving its play for the postseason - especially defensively - after allowing eight goals while losing their last two regular-season matches. Los Angeles, which won its fifth and most recent MLS Cup in 2014, is not a favorite to grab No. 6 this term, but many pundits believe it can get the job done Sunday.
And, it seems eager to go.
"It's like when you're going to the party. Now, we're going to dance," Los Angeles coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said.
Minus Ibrahimovic, the Galaxy won 3-2 at home over Minnesota on March 16, then played to a scoreless road draw in April.
The playoffs will be a whole new animal for Minnesota, which was two points better than the Galaxy during an historic regular season for the third-year club. However, don't expect United to be content on just making the postseason. Playing in front of the Wonderwall at home - where it's 10-1-6 in 2019 - makes extending this campaign very much possible.
"I think the biggest advantage anyone could have would be playing at home," Minnesota coach Adrian Heath told the official website of MLS. "Any team playing at home this weekend would say that. We're at home. I fully expect us to perform, and if we do, I think we can win."
Darwin Quintero has scored a team-leading 10 league goals for Minnesota, but has just two over his last eight contests. They likely need him to be active in what will be the biggest match in the brief MLS history of the franchise.
"The fans can't wait, we can't wait," Minnesota keeper Vito Mannone told the club's official website. "We need to push together to make history again, because history has already been made this season.
"Why not progress one more and then one more."
Updated October 19, 2019