CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena gives nothing but top marks to midfielder Stefan Ishizaki, who came over from Sweden during the offseason and has four goals and five assists in 16 starts on the right wing.
Arena speaks highly of his passing, touch on the ball and invaluable experience.
Ishizaki says not so fast.
“Personally,” he said after training this week, “I feel like I’ve done all right. I know I have a little more in me.”
Ishizaki, who admitted he’s often his toughest critic, signed with the Galaxy in January after playing eight years for Swedish side IF Elfsborg, where he scored 48 goals. Arena was looking for an outside threat and appears to have found one in the 32-year-old who made his MLS debut in the season opener against Real Salt Lake and has been close to a fixture in the starting lineup ever since.
“I think he’s done a good job,” Arena said. “He has a good attitude, he trains well, he’s a good person in the locker room and has quality on the field. Overall he’s been a good addition.
“He’s a different kind of player than what we have. He’s much cleaner technically than a lot of our players. He’s a good passer, a good crosser of the ball and a good shooter when he gets an opportunity.
“He’s experienced and he knows how to play with Robbie (Keane) and Landon (Donovan), which is important. We added a real good player to our team.”
But he’s also apparently far from satisfied, if Ishizaki has any say in the matter.
“I feel I can do better,” he said. “I think it’s the same with the whole team. At times we play really, really well, and that’s the level we have to reach if we want to make the playoffs and win this thing.”
Ishizaki admitted the adjustment to Major League Soccer – particularly the travel – was difficult at first. But he’s getting more and more comfortable in his new surroundings and his game is coming around.
“I want to be the best football player I can be,” he said. “I want to push myself every day to get better. Even at 32 I still feel like I’m evolving and becoming a better player.
“Obviously you lose some things you have in your youth, but I feel like I’ve become smarter and have a better touch.”
Ishizaki said the season has gone pretty much as he envisioned, with the exception of what he said was a slow start -- “I was hoping to do better earlier,” he said – but he feels like he’s improving defensively and is close to hitting his stride. Improved conditioning has helped in that regard.
“I kind of feel like my fitness has been good,” he said. “I run a lot; I make a lot of high-paced runs. That’s what I need to do to get my game up. I know I have the touch, the crossing. I know I have a good right foot I rely on.
“Now it’s just a matter of really finding that killer form and having the confidence when every time you have the ball you just know what you’re doing. That’s what I’m searching for right now.”