CARSON, Calif. – Stefan Ishizaki has spent plenty of time practicing his free kicks in recent weeks and on Wednesday his hard work paid off.
In the 75th minute after Juninho won a free kick just outside the penalty area, Ishizaki let loose a curling shot that bounced off a defender and into the net for LA’s fourth goal of their 5-1 rout of the New England Revolution. The strike capped a performance that also featured a first half assist of Gyasi Zardes’ goal just before the 20 minute mark.
With his goal, Ishizaki has the distinction of scoring 50 percent of LA’s free kicks since David Beckham left the club as the Galaxy have scored just two goals off free kicks since the Englishman’s departure.
“That’s what I’ve kind of built my career on, my right foot. I have always been taking corners and free kicks,” said Ishizaki. “Recently, I’ve had a couple injuries in the past couple of years that kept me from practicing free kicks and now I feel fit and I feel good. I’ve been making a lot of free kicks in practice, so that gives you the confidence you need when you step up in games.”
The Galaxy will need that confidence heading into Saturday’s clash against Sporting Kansas City, but before the team turns the page to Sporting, Ishizaki admits that the victory was a needed one for LA.
“We’ve been waiting on one of these games to really score a lot of goals,” he said. “We felt a little bit unlucky at times, but at the end of the day, if it doesn’t go in you’ve not done well enough. So it was a good feeling today to get a couple in.”
CARSON, Calif. -- Stefan Ishizaki knows that the last few weeks haven't been his best and now the LA Galaxy's Swedish midfielder is looking to get back on the scoresheet.
The Swedish midfielder saw his four-game starting streak snapped on Saturday when he came on as a late substitute in the LA Galaxy's 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake. Despite making four consecutive starts, Ishizaki has seen his production decline after a strong start to the 2014 season with just one assist in his last five games and no goals since his tally against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on April 19.
Despite his recent frustrations, Ishizaki admits that he feels that things are starting to come together ahead of Wednesday's match against the New England Revolution.
"I feel really good," said Ishizaki. "I got to rest last game and I only played 15 minutes so I'm fresh and ready to go if Bruce wants me on Wednesday."
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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – “We just blew it.”
Those were the words from head coach Bruce Arena after the LA Galaxy’s frustrating 1-0 defeat to the Colorado Rapids last Saturday. Although the candid Arena is known for his tough love approach after defeats—and sometimes even positive results—the Galaxy took his words to heart after their poor showing.
“I don’t want to make any excuses. We weren't ready from the get-go,” midfielder Stefan Ishizaki told reporters. “I’d say that we're a better team than they are, but if you don’t work hard then you're not going to get the points. The team that works harder gets the results so we have to work harder as a group. I thought that my performance wasn't good enough but there are a lot of guys who I think would say the same thing.”
Ishizaki was among those who struggled during the loss as the normally active Swede found himself stifled by the constant pressure of the Colorado midfielders. Whereas Ishizaki was active and managing at least a goal or an assist in each of his last three games, the midfielder earned just one attempt on frame against the Rapids which was cleared off the line by Rapids defender Drew Moor in the second minute of play.
With the sting of the Colorado performance still fresh in his mind, Ishizaki admitted that the Galaxy must accept the lessons of the defeat if they are to rebound next weekend.
“We have to show that we're strong enough as a team and that we can bounce back straight away,” said Ishizaki. “And we can only do that by getting a result in Portland.”
CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy are in the midst of yet another bye week that the team must savor because soon the grind of the MLS Regular Season will truly begin.
This weekend will serve as the Galaxy’s third off week of the 2014 campaign which was set in place—in large part—due to LA’s participation in the CONCACAF Champions League. Following this weekend’s bye, the Galaxy will not experience another weekend off until MLS action is halted due to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Once MLS action resumes, the Galaxy's campaign will truly begin as the team will play at least once each week until the season's end.
Although the schedule will pick up at a rapid pace after this weekend’s respite, the Galaxy actually believe that 2014 will bring a smaller work-load than past seasons.
“I think we actually see this as a lighter year, because we're not in the [next edition of] the Champions League. We're not playing extra games [down the stretch], so for us to play every week is fine. I personally would prefer to be playing regularly,” Landon Donovan told reporters earlier this week. “At different points of the season, which you're nicked up, you accept a bye week happily, but to have them so early is a little unnecessary, I guess. But it is what it is. I would think preferably we'd have them more late in the season, but that's the way it goes.”
But midfielder Stefan Ishizaki thinks that the bye week may turn out to be advantageous for LA ahead of their match against the Colorado Rapids next Saturday.
“Playing on hard turf in Vancouver made guys a bit sore and I think that it’s a good thing that we got that out,” said Ishizaki. “We can train hard during the bye week and then ease up our preparations as we get closer to the Colorado match.”
CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy were pressed from the get-go by Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the club’s meeting last Saturday and when the club’s renew hostilities this Saturday in Vancouver, LA expect much of the same.
In fact, such similarities are nothing new for LA who have played just three teams so in league play despite having played four matches. Add in the CONCACAF Champions League and the Galaxy’s first seven games will have been against just four different opponents.
“I’m wondering what the rest of this league is like. This is like the old days of the league ,” LA head coach Bruce Arena joked after training on Thursday. “We’re looking forward to the game. They have a good team, but I feel comfortable about our team. We’re looking better each week.”
The ‘Caps team that will take on the Galaxy will be slightly different than the one that LA earned a 1-0 victory over a week earlier, however, as Vancouver head coach will be able to call upon defensive midfielder Matias Laba. The Argentine was suspended for the StubHub Center leg of the home-at-home “series” but will be expected to return to the fold on Saturday providing the defensive cover in the center while also playing quick passes forward to kick start the Whitecaps attack.
The task of pressuring Laba is expected to fall to Galaxy midfielder Stefan Ishizaki, who often mans the attacking point of Arena’s diamond midfield.
“We have to be close and close them down quickly in midfield. We can’t be giving them time on the ball and it’s easy to say that, but it’ll take a lot of hard work,” said Ishizaki.
CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy won't simply taking on Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday, but they'll also be battling the unforgiving turf surface at BC Place.
The turf surface which was much maligned by Galaxy captain Robbie Keane a year ago was the reason that LA held training on the StubHub Center's turf field on Tuesday. But even though the bounces and grooves of the artificial pitch will cause issues, one member of the Galaxy is unfazed by playing on turf.
Galaxy midfielder Stefan Ishizaki played on turf for seven years while with Swedish first division club IF Elfsborg and believes that experience will help him as he looks to help lead LA to their third straight win.
"It'll be a difference, but I played for eight years on turf when I was in Sweden I'm used to it and I hope that I can take my experience into the game and help us," said Ishizaki.
CARSON, Calif. – Gyasi Zardes was blunt when asked about his offensive performance in Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Club Tijuana in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal.
“I don’t think that I did good at all,” Zardes told LA Galaxy Insider following the team’s training session on Saturday morning. “I could have been a better threat. We got the result, but I wasn’t much of a threat.”
Following a successful start against Real Salt Lake, Zardes struggled going forward against Tijuana as his passing and crossing was frequently off the mark with the forward completing just 13 of his 27 passes. Meanwhile his darting attacking runs amounted in little as he was blanketed by speedy Xolos right back Juan Nunez. Although he struggled to create going forward, Zardes did excel defensively making 11 recoveries and a single clearance to help LA keep the shutout.
“Good physical effort, but he has to be better technically,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “He’s still young and it’s going to be up and down. As he gets into the season and we get into a rhythm, we’re going to see some good soccer out of him.”
Whether Zardes remains in the starting XI for the second leg is still up in the air, however, as substitute Stefan Ishizaki was solid in a 20 minute shift against Tijuana. But if he is indeed starting at the Estadio Caliente, Zardes understands that he’ll need to have a more complete performance.
“I just need to make sure that I defend as well as attack,” said Zardes who asserted that he expected to see a full-strength Xolos team face LA on Tuesday. “I need to be smart with the [forward] runs that I make and listen to my teammates.”
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CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s roster is pretty much set heading into the season opener against Real Salt Lake, but one question mark remains.
Trialist Dan Gargan has been with the team since the start of the preseason, but as of yet, there has been no word about a contract offer from the Galaxy. But that doesn’t mean that LA isn’t interested according to head coach Bruce Arena.
“We’re going to try,” said Bruce Arena when asked about if the team is planning to sign the 31-year-old defender.
Outside back depth is vital for LA at the moment as the club dispatched youngsters Bryan Gaul (waived) and Greg Cochrane (traded to Chicago) in recent weeks.
RILEY EXPECTING TO START IN DEFENSE
While Gargan’s status is still up in the air, the newest member of the LA Galaxy, James Riley is expecting to get the start at left back this Saturday against Real Salt Lake due to an injury to Todd Dunivant.
Riley has seen significant time this preseason at left back due to Dunivant’s nagging hamstring injury and is likely to get the nod against RSL.
“I’ll be ready to go,” said Riley. “Whatever Bruce decides, I feel fit and ready to go.”
Dunivant is improving rapidly; however, as the veteran left back went 45 minutes in a recent scrimmage with LA Galaxy II against Cal-State Fullerton as he seeks to be available for selection for Saturday.
“I’m ready to be available,” said Dunivant. “It’s a good guess [that Riley starts]. I’m still working on [being 90 minutes fit], but first thing is first is getting healthy and I’m moving forward.”
ARENA ADMITS EXPERIENCE RULES ALL AS SEASON OPENER APPROACHES
The LA Galaxy’s new found experience has been a major plot line this preseason and on Thursday, head coach Bruce Arena went into detail about how he expects the team to be different during the 2014 campaign.
“I think the priorities were addressed with the new players,” said Arena. “We needed more experience in midfield; we got that with [Stefan] Ishizaki. We needed some help on our forward line, and we got that with Samuel and [Rob] Friend. We needed some experienced players in the back; we have that now with [James] Riley. Obviously [Baggio] Hušidić is another experienced player in the midfield as well. I think that’s what we needed to address. This year, we’re looking at Friend or Samuel or Hušidić or Riley or [Dan] Gargan or Ishizaki. Last year it was [Jack] McBean, [Jose] Villarreal, [Hector] Jimenez, and [Rafael] Garcia, I think that’s an improvement.”