CARSON, Calif. – Stefan Ishizaki was brought to the LA Galaxy this offseason to add a little touch of class to a team that struggled in 2013 and in LA’s 1-0 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC, he delivered.
After a frustrating first half that saw the two teams trade chances, Ishizaki provided the necessary spark for the Galaxy in the 47th minute.
Sent into space down the right by a Juninho long pass, Ishizaki brought down the ball perfectly before squaring up with ‘Caps defender Jay DeMerit and sending in a precise cross to Keane, who easily knocked it into the Whitecaps’ net. With his role in creating the Galaxy’s game-winner, the Swedish attacking midfielder has now tallied a goal and two assists in his last two matches for LA.
“Over the last few weeks, Stefan has been getting stronger and stronger physically. You can see that his fitness is getting better,” said Keane. “We know technically how good he is and how good he is at linking up with me, which was the case on the goal. I moved into space and I knew that more likely than not, he was going to find me.”
A far cry from the 3-0 victory over Chivas USA a week earlier, the chances were limited for the Galaxy on Saturday as they managed just three shots on goal while allowing four as Vancouver sought to pack the midfield against LA’s diamond formation.
Ishizaki’s own success came in part due to Vancouver’s attempts to pressure Keane, which allowed the Swede space to drift into up top. When Ishizaki did find the ball during his 79 minutes on the pitch, he was a threat each time he went forward.
“They made it tough for us. They didn’t give us a lot of time on the ball. We tried to play, but they made it hard,” said Ishizaki. “We still created some good chances and probably should have finished a few of them, but in the second half, we came out flying and scored in the first few minutes. That’s always a great sign.”
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was among those to praise Ishizaki after the win, but admitted that the team is still expecting even more from their dynamic Swede.
“A great play by Stefan on the goal. Taking the ball down and getting byDeMerit, whipping in a great cross to Robbie Keane. It was a great play,” said Arena. “It was Stefan’s best performance of the year. We got close to 80 minutes out of him. He looked a lot better. We think he can certainly continue to get better.”
And Ishizaki, who admits that he’s still coming to terms with the pace of MLS, agrees.
“As you play more games, you get more comfortable on the pitch. The more that I play with all my teammates, I get a better feel for them and they get a feel for me,” said Ishizaki. “I’m still not 100 percent or on the top of my form yet, but it’s getting better.
“For me it’s just getting into better shape and being at my peak physically because I know what my soccer skills are like,” he added. “I just need to get more fit and [play] more games…Hopefully I can do good stuff here.”