CARSON, Calif. – Some players can make the transition to Major League Soccer quite easily. For others, the process is not nearly as seamless.
Even the most highly regarded players in the world making a career move to the states can find it a daunting task.
“It took David Beckham time,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said of the former L.A. standout. “The only player I’ve seen actually really make the transition real quick without blinking an eye is Robbie Keane.”
Then there is Stefan Ishizaki, who joined the Galaxy in January after spending the past eight seasons with IF Elfsborg of Sweden’s Allsvenskan. The move from Europe had been going well for the veteran right winger until a stomach ailment sidelined him a couple of days last week and limited him to only a 28-minute substitute appearance in last Saturday’s 3-0 exhibition victory over Galaxy II.
But he now feels almost back to normal as he continues to try and fit in with his new teammates and prepares for the regular-season opener against Real Salt Lake on March 8 at StubHub Center.
“I’m almost 100 percent,” Ishizaki said Wednesday. “Now I can eat almost anything I want, but I still feel it every now and then.
“It doesn’t affect me in training.”
Ishizaki, who turns 32 in May, was brought in to help improve the club’s experience and depth on the wing. It was just over a week before his Swedish club opened preseason training when he got the call from his agent and was told that the MLS side was looking at him.
“As soon as I heard LA was interested I was interested, too, because I was with my old club for eight years and felt I needed something new,” he said. “And I thought this was a really exciting opportunity for me.”
Ishizaki said the adjustment to his new surroundings is going well. He doesn’t miss the weather back in his hometown of Stockholm – “My old club recently played a friendly in blizzard snow,” he said with a grin – and pointed out his biggest challenge has been getting to know his teammates’ on-field tendencies.
“And them getting to know me,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been working on, knowing where they want the ball, how they move, and I let them know how I want the ball and how I move.
“It’s been frustrating at times, but I think I’m getting there.”
Arena has been impressed with the newcomer.
“He’s a good passer, he’s an experienced player and he’s comfortable on the ball,” he said.
Ishizaki also is getting more comfortable in the MLS style of play. He admitted he knew little about MLS prior to his arrival in Southern California, although he does have some friends who play in the league, and his first-hand experience with MLS was eye-opening.
“The soccer is a lot different than it is in Europe,” he explained. “Here it’s a lot faster-paced. Once you go forward, you really go forward. In Europe it’s a little more build up play, you try and keep the ball.
“I’m getting used to it. The quality of some players here is just amazing, like Robbie, Landon (Donovan), Omar (Gonzalez) and a couple of other guys. Their vision is incredible.
“I’m fortunate to get to be able to play with those guys.”
His said his goals this season are quite simple. In fact, he has only one.
“I didn’t move to L.A. to just play,” he said. “I’m here to win.”