CARSON, Calif. – Much has been made of Stefan Ishizaki's contributions from the LA Galaxy's diamond midfield, and Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas already were known quantities, but it's perhaps Baggio Husidic who has been the biggest revelation in Bruce Arena's new system.
The 26-year-old midfielder, in his second MLS stint, has been critical in the Galaxy's last three games – a tie at Real Salt Lake and shutout victories over Chivas USA and Vancouver – with his two-way play, fueling LA's possession game and playing a big role in shutting off opponents' attacks.
“He's a good thinker on the field,” said associate head coach Dave Sarachan, who has known Husidic since his teens in Chicago. “He sees things early and he's tactically pretty sharp, a guy who can play in multiple spots. But I think at the end of it, he provides possession for us.
“He's a good passer. He sees the next pass early. And that, in a team like ours, where you have guys like Robbie [Keane] and Landon [Donovan], who are on that level of thinking – and you add now Stefan and Baggio, and now you throw in Juni and Marcelo – you've got a team that can pass and move pretty well.”
The change in tactics has added girth to the Galaxy's approach, enabling them to shut down foes by crowding the midfield and dictate terms through rapid interchange and ball movement among the front six. Husidic, who spelled Juninho at the end of LA's first two matches, has seamlessly slid in on the left.
“[My role is to] tuck in,” said Husidic, who scored a superb third goal in the romp over Chivas to complete a mesmerizing passing sequence. “We have three central midfielders playing almost flat across midfield. Juni plays more centrally [in the holding position], and it's Marcelo's and my job to help him defensively and, offensively, just play the way we play: play to feet, play a passing game, a possession game, and get forward when we can.
“Play the ball to our dangerous players, with Landon and Keane up top. They've been very dangerous partnered up top. We're there to support them.”
Husidic's game broadened during his time in Sweden, where he played in midfield and central defense under current Columbus Crew coach Gregg Berhalter. The Galaxy picked up a more mature player than the one who departed the Chicago Fire after three seasons to head to Scandinavia.
“I have a lot more experience,” Husidic said. “I've played fifty-something games out there for the first team, and anytime you get games, there's nothing better than that. You're more comfortable with the ball, you're more experienced in different situations.”
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Husidic built confidence, and that's helped him become an outstanding linkman.
“When I first came [to MLS], I was very one-directional, and a lot of my balls were just safe passes, sideways or backward,” he said. “That was just from not having experience and getting into better situations past the [opposing] player, where I could turn and go forward. Just being more confident for myself.”