Sweden international Stefan Ishizaki eager to bring another dimension to LA Galaxy attack
CARSON, Calif. – Stefan Ishizaki has been targeted before by MLS. But when the LA Galaxy expressed interest, he couldn't say no.
“It's LA,” he said during the club's first media availability following a training session at StubHub Center. “It's the weather, it's the people and the beach and everything. It's a good package.”
Ishizaki, 31, signed with LA before camp opened at the end of last week, but announcement of the deal was delayed until Thursday while the club awaited arrival of his work visa. That in hand, the Swedish national team veteran will play a role in helping transform the Galaxy attack.
The acquisitions of Canadian veteran Rob Friend and Brazilian striker Samuel have given the Galaxy better size and depth up top, and Ishizaki, who plays primarily on the right flank, will be expected to feed them.
“I'm quite calm with the ball, and I have experience with the national team and playing in Italy ...,” said Ishizaki, who has played with AIK in Sweden, in a short-term loan for Genoa in Italy, in Norway with Valerenga and since 2006 with Swedish club IF Elfsborg. “We have Landon [Donovan] and we have Robbie [Keane], and they're great together. Robbie drops down and provides Landon with good balls. And sometimes against certain teams, you need a little different style of play.
“… Usually, I take set pieces with my old team. And I kind of have a good cross with my right foot, so maybe they'll look to use that as well.”
"He's a very good passer. Very composed, experienced, gives us a little something different in the midfield," head coach Bruce Arena said. "He'll make plays that will amount to something. We often have a lot of players with a lot of energy, with good intentions, but nothing happens out of that play. I think he's a guy who can make that final pass."
Ishizaki, who has a Japanese father and Swedish mother, has played everywhere in midfield and at forward, although he's not as comfortable up top. He said he can play on the left or the right.
“But I don't cross the ball as well with my left foot,” he said. “When I play on the left, I usually try to get shots off and get combinations with the strikers. But when I'm on the right, it's a little bit more like a crossing style of play, trying to find strikers in behind the back four.”
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The Galaxy’s offseason additions, including central midfielder Baggio Husidic, provide “quality and experience in a lot of positions,” Arena said.
“And a big part of the team this year is that we're going to have good depth and experienced players that can play different roles throughout the season,” he added. “[In addition to Samuel and Friend], Ishizaki and Husidic strengthens our midfield, and those moves allow us to probably play Landon more consistently in one position this year and we'll decide that.”
Ishizaki said he received MLS overtures from Montreal and Colorado “a couple of years ago.”
He played on the national team with Christian Wilhelmsson, a Galaxy winger the latter part of the 2012 season, and talked to former Seattle Sounders midfielder Erik Friberg before signing up.
“I just asked him what he thought of MLS and living in the States,” Ishizaki said. “And he said, 'You should definitely go.' He made my decision a little easier.”