LA Galaxy's Stefan Ishizaki off to solid start, but expectations rise as he adjusts to MLS
CARSON, Calif. – Stefan Ishizaki has fared well in his first four appearances for the LA Galaxy, showing off his attacking sensibilities off the bench in the opener against Real Salt Lake and both games of the Club Tijuana CONCACAF Champions League series, then demonstrating his defensive acumen in his first start, in the RSL rematch a week-and-a-half ago.
The Galaxy expect more once he's fully settled in.
The 31-year-old Swedish midfielder, signed as camp opened in January, is still working his way into fitness and adapting to a style of play that's different from any he's experienced.
“It takes time for any player coming into the league,” head coach Bruce Arena said this week as the Galaxy started preparations for Sunday's SuperClasico against Chivas USA (3 pm ET, UniMas). “So on top of everything else – getting him fit again – he's got to get accustomed to the league and our team.
“There's a learning curve there. He's just working his way through that, and I think that's the case all the time [with players]. You very rarely see someone who steps in right away and is fully adjusted. It takes time.”
Ishizaki, who has played in Italy and Norway as well as his native Sweden, has found “that that's true.”
“I had a tough start, but I think that had a lot to do with my fitness, too,” he said. “There's some differences from, at least, European soccer. ... The tempo of the game [is the biggest adjustment]. Like, in Europe, you can sort of try to lure the defender up. You play a little bit slow, and then all of a sudden you go to attack, and then it's 100 percent speed.
"Here, some of the games can be really, really speedy all of the time. You go up and down the field, and you fight for every ball.”
Ishizaki's creativity on the flank and his passing ability most interested the Galaxy, who added several attacking options during the offseason after their season ended early last year, in large part because their offense lacked dimension.
He was particularly dangerous after coming on with about 25 minutes to go in the opener, twice testing RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando in a 1-0 LA defeat, and again in the Galaxy's CCL loss in Tijuana.
His role in his first start, in the 1-1 draw 11 days ago at RSL, was more about stopping the home team.
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“My main focus that game was to really be solid in defense,” he said. “I know when we get the ball up to their half, I know what I can do, so [I focused] on my defensive part of the game.”
Arena was pleased and knows he'll get much more from Ishizaki in the coming months.
“He's getting there. He's still a little bit away, but he's getting there,” Arena said. “He's a good player. He's an experienced guy.”