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Chicago Fire preparing to deal with the Zlatan Ibrahimović ‘circus’

Los Angeles Galaxy's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, left, of Sweden, celebrates his goal during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Los Angeles FC Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Carson, Calif. The Galaxy won 4-3. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The fan and media attention that Zlatan Ibrahimović has brought with him to Major League Soccer has turned into a bit of a circus.

At least, that’s what Chicago Fire midfielder Dax McCarty said about Ibrahimović’s upcoming visit with the LA Galaxy to Toyota Park.

“It’s always difficult to prepare for guys like that because you watch as much game film as you want, it doesn’t really matter,” McCarty said. “They are the people that they are and the players that they are for a reason, and that’s because they’re blessed with a very special gift to be able to play this game at an incredibly high level. I think the main thing for us is just dealing with the circus, dealing with the hoopla surrounding it.”

The Fire are coming off their first win of the season. McCarty and coach Veljko Paunovic both said that gave the team more confidence. After a winless March, getting a win and then news of a sellout is a boost to the team after an uninspiring start. Of course, that sellout has more to do with Ibrahimović than the Fire.

The national, perhaps international, storyline isn’t about a sold-out stadium or the attention that Ibrahimović brings — it’s the reunion of Ibrahimović and former Manchester United teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger. Not only will the Swede and German reunite on the field, they could be in numerous duels throughout the match.

Schweinsteiger has played sweeper in each of the Fire’s last two matches, which means he could be responsible for marking Ibrahimović frequently. Schweinsteiger said there is mutual respect between the two.

“Zlatan is a very smart player,” Schweinsteiger said. “He has not only one option, he has three options in his brain. Very fast in his brain and his technique and everything so it’s going to be tough. We have to play as a team also against him, but there are also other players who are very good on the Galaxy team where we have to focus.”

Ibrahimović has come off the bench in his first two Galaxy appearances, playing in 19 minutes in his debut and then 28 minutes last week. McCarty said he is expecting Ibrahimović to start in what would be his first game away from home in MLS.

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