Is Stefan Ishizaki set to have a superb sophomore season?

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Stefan Ishizaki agreed there was much to like about the defending MLS Cup champion’s season-opening 2-0 victory over the Chicago Fire last Friday at StubHub Center.

The defense, which tied D.C. United for allowing the fewest goals in the league a year ago, didn’t miss a beat in recording another clean sheet.

Robbie Keane, coming off one of his finest seasons as a professional, had one of the team’s two goals and Ishizaki was a force on the right wing throughout the match.

But as far as Ishizaki was concerned, there was one thing in particular with which he was most happy.

“The three points,” he said as the Galaxy prepared for Sunday’s game in Portland against the Timbers at Providence Park (4 p.m., Fox Sports 1).

“That’s what we’re aiming for every game, to get three points.

“We know first games of the season can be very difficult, but I felt we had good control of the game and played well.”

The 32-year-old Ishizaki, who is starting his second season in Major League Soccer, earned rave reviews for his dynamic performance against the Fire. 

He had 30 appearances last season, including 22 starts, and had five goals and seven assists while providing a valuable option that could prove even more valuable this season, given that Landon Donovan has retired.

Ishizaki admitted trying to ease the loss of Donovan, who left the game as MLS’ all-time leader in goals and assists, has crossed his mind from time to time.

“I tried to do that last year, too,” he said with a grin. “I’m just going to keep trying and hopefully it helps the team.”

If Friday was any indication, that shouldn’t be a problem for the native of Stockholm, Sweden.

“I love how he holds the ball and how he’s aggressive,” Galaxy teammate Gyasi Zardes said. “Every touch (Friday) was forward and attacking.”

Ishizaki said his grasping the intricacies of MLS has been a work in progress. Not only did he have to get used to new surroundings and new teammates, but there also was playing in the heat of summer on artificial surfaces, playing in unfamiliar venues and adjusting to travel demands that often took him to different time zones.

He said he thinks he’s finally gotten the hang of it.

“Now I feel very comfortable,” he said. “It’s been a year where I’ve been getting to know my teammates, getting to know the team a little bit, too. They kind of know me now, how I like the ball, how I move and what I like to do with the ball.  I think we know each other better this year.

“I would say just before the playoffs I really hit my stride and played my best soccer at the end of last year.”

Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has taken notice of his solid play.

“He is much more comfortable,” he said. “He is a very good player, and we expect him to have a really good year this year, as he did last year.”

Ishizaki said he and the Galaxy are a good fit.

“I think we’re on the same page,” he said. “I think we both want to play the same soccer, and I think that helps me a lot. Obviously having good teammates helps a lot, too.”