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Sweden announces Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not return for World Cup

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s public flirtation and seeming committal to returning to the Swedish national team for the World Cup was a big tease.

Whether it’s his call or not is up for debate.

The Swedish Football Association reports that it’s spoken with Ibrahimovic and the 35-year-old LA Galaxy striker has declined the chance to return to the fold.

[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]

Sweden’s sporting director Lars Richt says Ibrahimovic has not changed his mind on international retirement despite his own words.

Sweden’s current team may have a role in that.

We imagine Richt and Sweden may be cushioning the blow for Ibrahimovic, especially if national team goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson is speaking on behalf of a team vibe when he speaks of Zlatan being “an individualist” who could ruin Sweden’s team-first concept.

MLS roundup: ATL roll past Galaxy; RSL survive 10-man Rapids

Photo credit: Real Salt Lake / @RealSaltLake
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A roundup of, plus a few quick thoughts about, all of Saturday’s action from around MLS…

[ MORE: Other MLS Things — The Archive ]

LA Galaxy 0-2 Atlanta UnitedFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Two teams with fantastic attacking talent but very little in terms of a strong, controlling midfield presence — you’d expect a game like that to be wide open with plenty of chances at both ends of the field, and you’d have been right about Atlanta’s 2-0 victory over LA (at least for the opening 45 minutes. The stark difference between the two sides on Saturday? Atlanta’s ability to turn shooting chances into scoring chances, and LA’s inability to do so.

In truth, the chance resulting in the Five Stripes’ opening goal, which also turned out to be the winner, was the scrappiest once of the bunch.

Miguel Almiron was sensational on the night — constantly on the ball in dangerous areas, constantly gliding past one and two white shirts, constantly winning free kicks (and a penalty) in those dangerous areas. Since suffering a 4-0 defeat on opening day, Tata Martino’s side is unbeaten in their last six games (five wins) and moved to within a point of Eastern Conference- and Supporters’ Shield-leading New York City FC.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was rendered completely ineffective and he — dare I say it — was little more than a passenger for the vast majority of Saturday’s game. Jonathan dos Santos picked up an injury during warmups, forcing Baggio Husidic into the starting lineup, and that did LA no favors when it came time to slow Atlanta’s momentum through the center of the field (which was the entire game).

Columbus Crew SC 2-2 New England RevolutionFULL HIGHLIGHTS

If you had New England sitting above Columbus in the standings at any point this season, let alone after eight weeks, please proceed to the cash-out window immediately. Brad Friedel‘s bunch has played some pretty passable, if unexciting, soccer thus far and have picked up points in five of their seven games played. They’ve even won four points from their first three games away from home, which is two-thirds of the way to matching last season’s paltry haul of six.

Saturday’s 2-2 draw in Columbus saw the Revs come from behind twice to secure a well-earned and deserved point. Cristian Penilla has flown under the radar with regard to impact signings of the offseason — the Ecuadorian has two goals, including the stoppage-time equalizer on Saturday, and four assists in his first seven MLS games — and Diego Fagundez appears to have finally been handed the keys to the Revs’ attack with Lee Nguyen banished to the periphery (but still not traded away).

Real Salt Lake 3-0 Colorado RapidsFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Tim Howard was sent off after 20 minutes for handling the ball outside his penalty area — how great is that multi-million-dollar contract looking now? — yet Colorado so nearly held on for an away point against their Rocky Mountain Cup rivals. Alas, RSL scored three times in the final eight minutes of regular and stoppage time, helping the final score to match the lopsided nature of the preceding 60 minutes:

29 shots (10 on target), compared to just 12 (o on target) for Colorado; nearly 71 percent of possession; 571 passes, to just 228. The lopsidedness goes on and on.

Albert Rusnak scored a stunning free kick to complete the scoring, but was still upstaged by Damir Kreilach’s first MLS goal which came just three minutes earlier.

RSL have alternated wins and losses in each of their last six times out, which spells bad news for a suddenly important Friday night trip to Vancouver to face a Whitecaps side that 1) they beat at home earlier this month, and 2) has lost three straight, by a combined score of 10-1.

Elsewhere in MLS

Sporting KC 6-0 Vancouver Whitecaps — FULL RECAP
Montreal Impact 3-5 Los Angeles FC — FULL RECAP
Houston Dynamo 5-1 Toronto FC
Orlando City SC 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
FC Dallas 2-0 Philadelphia Union

MLS roundup: Another winner for Zlatan; Quintero’s debut goal

Photo credit: Minnesota United / @MNUFC
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A roundup of, plus a few quick thoughts about, all of Saturday’s action from around MLS…

[ MORE: Other MLS Things — The Archive ]

Chicago Fire 0-1 LA Galaxy

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has played all of 127 minutes since arriving in LA, and he’s got three goals to his name, including the winner at Toyota Park, but more importantly the Galaxy have won six points from the big Swede’s first three games in MLS. Saturday’s 1-0 win away to Chicago was anything but pretty — blame the freezing, windy conditions if you require a scapegoat — but it’s a step forward for last year’s last-place finishers nonetheless.

The Ibrahimovic-Ola Kamara partnership is, predictably, a work in progress, not at all unlike the Perry Kitchen-Jonathan dos Santos duo in central midfield. Alas, there’s more than enough talent (on paper) for LA to finish top-three or -four in a weak Western Conference (they’re up to second, now three points behind Sporting Kansas City), and they’ve arguably the biggest difference maker in league history to lean on down the stretch.

Portland Timbers 3-2 Minnesota United

Here are two statements that are undeniably true: the Timbers are a very talented team that can’t keep a clean sheet to save their lives (just seven since the start of the 2017 season — 40 regular-season games) and are almost as bad at closing out games with a late lead; Minnesota have some fun attacking pieces, including debutant and goalscorer Darwin Quintero, but they’re still a trainwreck defensively, individually. Thus, we should have known Saturday’s clash at Providence Park would be a thoroughly wild, nonsensical affair, because it was all on display on Saturday.

For the third straight game, Portland went ahead early on and (almost, this time) proceeded to cough up their lead and drop points. Fortunately for Gio Savarese, who got his first MLS win on the night, Minnesota couldn’t convert any one of a number of quality chances to get back to 2-2 early in the second half, and the hosts bagged a third almost completely against the run of play. Well done to Bill Poni Tuiloma, though, for an unbelievable finish on this own goal.

New York Red Bulls 3-1 Montreal Impact

If their was any doubt about the Red Bulls’ trophy-chasing credentials following last week’s CONCACAF Champions League defeat to Chivas de Guadalajara, Jesse Marsch’s men put them to bed on Saturday. Bradley Wright-Phillips opened the scoring after five minutes, but Montreal drew level through Jeisson Vargas not long after the half-hour mark. Alejandro “Kaku” Romero put the home side ahead again, in emphatic fashion, just before the hour mark.

Elsewhere in MLS

San Jose Earthquakes 2-2 Houston Dynamo
Colorado Rapids 2-0 Toronto FC(‘s Reserves)
D.C. United 1-0 Columbus Crew SC
New England Revolution 0-1 FC Dallas

WATCH: Zlatan scores again; LA Galaxy beat Schweinsteiger, Fire

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune via AP
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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in his first MLS start and the Los Angeles Galaxy beat the Chicago Fire 1-0 on Saturday.

Ibrahimovic headed home Ashley Cole‘s deep diagonal cross in the first minute of first-half stoppage time.

The Swedish forward played as a substitute in his first two appearances for the Galaxy (3-2-1). He has three goals in 127 minutes.

Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham made four saves to preserve his second clean sheet of the season.

The Fire dropped to 1-3-1.

LA Galaxy sign Norwegian striker Ola Kamara to 3-year deal

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File
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CARSON, Calif. (AP) The LA Galaxy have signed striker Ola Kamara to a three-year contract.

The Galaxy announced the deal Wednesday after the Norwegian forward’s first four games with his new club.

Kamara scored 34 goals in the previous two seasons with the Columbus Crew, ranking third in the league during that span. Only David Villa and Bradley Wright-Phillips scored more MLS goals.

The 28-year-old Kamara joined the Galaxy in January in a trade for underachieving striker Gyasi Zardes.

The Galaxy are hanging onto Kamara despite acquiring superstar forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic last month. Ibrahimovic is signed through next season.

Kamara played professionally in Norway, Germany and Austria before moving to MLS in February 2016.