One day before the season opener, the Los Angeles Galaxy were still scrambling to finalize a roster for a matchup Saturday against the visiting Chicago Fire.
In order to get the roster within MLS rules, Los Angeles bought out the contract of Giovani dos Santos on Friday, leaving them with the required three designated players.
The move now brings into focus a duel of two teams that failed to make the playoffs last season, with all eyes still on the Galaxy as they return attention-getting forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
A 37-year-old native of Sweden, Ibrahimovic became just the third player in MLS history last season to score at least 20 goals with at least 10 assists. The Galaxy will round out their designated players with midfielders Romain Alessandrini and Jonathan dos Santos, Giovani's brother.
Ibrahimovic officially finished second in the league with 22 goals in 2018, including the MLS Goal of the Year for his long-range strike against Los Angeles FC in his debut on March 21.
With the Galaxy completing a transfer of striker Ola Kamara to a team in China and Gio Dos Santos gone, Ibrahimovic will have even more on his plate.
"Having more responsibility in the offense, I think it's the same situation for me," Ibrahimovic said. "I do my thing. I try to help the guys and we keep doing what we are doing. I don't think we change anything now."
The Fire will return a legend of their own as Bastian Schweinsteiger of Germany will be back for a third season in Chicago. The 34-year-old, who is a former World Cup champion, had four goals and six assists from the midfield in 31 games last season.
The Fire made another midfield addition Thursday, signing Nicolas Gaitan of Argentina. Gaitan had moved to China from Atlecico Madrid one year ago, but a roster squeeze forced him out of his Dalian Yifang side and into MLS.
When the Galaxy last took the field at home on the final day of last season, they needed just a victory over Houston to secure a playoff berth. They even took a 2-0 lead but fell 3-2, allowing Real Salt Lake to go to the postseason. Los Angeles finished the season 13-12-9 (48 points).
The Fire finished last season a disappointing 8-18-8 (32 points) with only one MLS team, the San Jose Earthquakes, earning less victories (four).
The Galaxy are dealing with a number of injuries, all undisclosed, as Sebastian Lletget, Perry Kitchen and Juninho will not play. The Fire's Andre Reynolds II (thigh) is questionable.
--Field Level Media