CARSON, Calif. – Stefan Ishizaki bid the LA Galaxy a fond farewell after the club’s 4-0 victory over Toronto FC.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena announced after Saturday’s game that the dynamic midfielder had played his final game for the club in order to return to Sweden to raise twins who are due in October.
Despite having a regular place in Arena’s starting XI, the need to raise his three sons in Sweden caused him to request his release after a year-and-a-half with the club.
“When I told Bruce, I said that this is one of the hardest decisions that I’ve ever had to make. It’s for the sake of my family, it’s always tough because I’m leaving a great club, which has been like my family now,” Ishizaki said. “I’m leaving great friends and great athletes. I just want to thank everyone from the head office to the staff and coaches, but this is for my kids and for my wife."
As difficult as it was to lose a midfielder who registered six goals and 12 assists during his time with the club, Arena felt that it was vital for the Galaxy to do right by the 33-year-old midfielder.
“We want to thank him for his outstanding contribution over the last 18 months. He’s done an outstanding job,” Arena said. “We needed a right-sided midfielder, an experienced player. He brought that. He was a very good teammate. [He was] well-liked by everyone. In his first year, he helped win a championship for us. He has positioned our team again to be a team that hopefully can make the playoffs and contend for another MLS Cup.
“He’s been an outstanding player for us and we’ll miss him.”
Ishizaki received a proper sending off on Saturday as he started and went 90 minutes during the team’s 4-0 victory over Toronto FC, tallying an assist on Robbie Keane’s second of three goals in the 41st minute of play. Following the match, the normally calm Swede was full of emotion as he threw his jersey into the Angel City Brigade and was mobbed by his loving teammates.
As much as Ishizaki enjoyed his time on and off the field with the Galaxy, the need to be close to his family as Stefan and his wife Helena look to raise their son Ossian and their two boys on the way.
“One of my best friends in Sweden who used to play in Holland had twins a couple of years ago. He said that he needed to be close to family and get all the help that he could. Even though he had family nearby, he said that it still wasn’t easy,” Ishizaki said. “With us being here and us being so far from our family, it’s been tough especially with my young son. It’s been tough to FaceTime with his grandparents and see that they’re missing out on his childhood. It was a hard decision but it was one of those things that I had to do with my family.”
Even though Ishizaki departs as the Galaxy prepare their stretch run, the Swede was given full support by his teammates.
“It’s a big loss. All the guys are going to miss him,” goalkeeper Brian Rowe said. “He’s a great guy and definitely someone that everyone is going to keep in touch with over there. I’m sad to see him go but with the family stuff going on, I’m really happy for him. He’s going to do well back there.”
Added forward Robbie Keane, “We didn’t expect it and it was a bit of a shock but we have to respect his decision. It’s a family decision which is the most important thing. He’s been tremendous for this football club since he’s come in on day one. He’s been brilliant with the players and the staff, and most importantly he’s been great on the field. We’re certainly going to miss him. He’s a fantastic player and whatever he does in the future, we wish him and his family well.”
As Ishizaki turns his attention to Sweden and the new footballing and parenting challenges ahead, the midfielder offered one final thank you to the organization that he had come to love.
“I just want to thank everyone. It has been a great year-and-a-half, and I’m going to miss it. It’s going to be one of those memories that I’m going to have with me for the rest of my life,” he said. “Getting an MLS Cup out of it was all I wanted from this experience. Winning something and going back to Sweden as a champion. I’m happy with what I’ve performed here, but I’m very sad that I have to leave. But like I said, it’s something that I feel that I have to do for my family.”