LA Galaxy newcomers still adjusting to the rigors of Major League Soccer

CARSON, Calif. – Rob Friend, Baggio Husidic and Stefan Ishizaki certainly have enjoyed their time in Major League Soccer. They can’t complain about the weather, living in Los Angeles or the level of competition.

But the adjustment period is ongoing for the Galaxy trio that came over from Europe during the offseason. The travel, in particular, is something they’re still getting used to.

“It’s an interesting league,” said the 33-year-old Friend, a Canadian international who came to the Galaxy from Germany’s 1860 Munich. “Obviously it’s still fairly young compared to European leagues, but it’s fun to experience all the cities and stadiums.

“It’s just a different ballgame than obviously Europe.”

Husidic is no stranger to MLS, having played with the Chicago Fire from 2009-2011 before joining Sweden’s Hammarby IF in 2012. Even in the two years he’s been away, the 27-year-old said he was impressed with the league’s growth.

“The transformation is pretty incredible,” he said. “How much it’s developed just with the fan base. It’s incredible what Portland’s done, what Seattle’s done.

“It’s pretty cool.”

Ishizaki, who played with Sweden’s IF Elfsborg from 2006-2013 before signing with the Galaxy in January, said he had some idea of what to expect from MLS after watching other Swedish players compete in the league. But he still found it surprising in many ways.

“The type of play … more physical and more direct,” he said. “And a lot of the games we play it’s really warm, too.

“It’s definitely different from Europe.”

The trio agreed travel has been their biggest issue. Ishizaki and Husidic, for example, may have taken bus rides to various venues in Sweden, but now they’re often taking cross-country flights.

“Every time we played in Europe,” Ishizaki said, “we were always in the same time zone. That’s a big thing. This year we played a noon game one time and it’s 10 a.m. in L.A. It’s tough … I’m not used to playing that early. The earliest we played in Sweden was three in the afternoon or something.

“A lot of adjustments you have to make.”
Husidic agreed.

“I was just used to taking buses to games. It’s convenient,” he said. “In Sweden we had one flight all year, it was 45 minutes across the country. Here sometimes you can go in 48 hours before a game; there’s so much involved in it.

“That’s quite a challenge for a lot of new players that come to the league. I’m still adjusting to it a little bit. When you’ve been away like I have your body is not used to that.”

Friend did have a minor quibble – the scheduling. Earlier this season, for example, the Galaxy had a pair of two-week breaks between games, and that doesn’t even include time off during the recent World Cup.

“We had a couple of weekends free, now it’s two or three games a week,” he said. “In Europe you had one game every week and a consistent week of training. Just a bizarre kind of scheduling.

“As a player it’s hard to adjust to. It’s tough to get into any kind of rhythm.”

The trio said they have no second thoughts about deciding to play stateside.

“I enjoy it in L.A.,” Ishizaki said. “I play on a good team that plays good soccer.”

“No regrets all,” Husidic said. “I always wanted to come back. It worked out in the end.”

Said Friend, “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”