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01/30/2014
 

CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy have a good sense of what failed them in 2013 -- inconsistency and a lack of diversity, for the most part -- and have begun preparations for the coming season by addressing their faults.


They've got a different look, thanks to four key attacking acquisitions, and believe the group head coach/general manager Bruce Arena and his staff have put together is better than the one that missed out on an MLS Cup “threepeat” last fall.


“You have to always come into a season at the start very positive, thinking that we have a good chance of winning the championship, because if you don't believe that, well, then there's no point of being here ...,” captain Robbie Keane said at StubHub Center during the club's first media availability of the year. “We say that [the changes have made us better] every year, don't we? But I actually, genuinely do [believe they have this year]. I think we look at the experienced players we've brought in, I think that will certainly help the group.”


Target forwards Rob Friend, a 6-foot-5 Canadian who spent 11 years in Europe, and Samuel, a 22-year-old Brazilian on loan from Fluminense, add bulk and experience up top, and former Chicago Fire midfielder Baggio Husidic, returning to MLS after two years in Sweden, adds another option behind the front pair.


And now they've added flank midfielder Stefan Ishizaki, a Swedish national team veteran that signed before camp began at the end of last week and was announced Thursday, when his work visa arrived.


“He's a very good passer. Very composed, experienced, gives us a little something different in the midfield,” Arena said. “He'll make plays that will amount to something. We often have a lot of players with a lot of energy, with good intentions, but nothing happens out of that play. I think he's a guy who can make that final pass.”


Ishizaki, who will compete with Robbie Rogers, Gyasi Zardes and possibly Landon Donovan for wide-midfield starting jobs, will enhance what Friend and Samuel bring to the frontline.


“We have Landon and we have Robbie [Keane], and they're great together,” said Ishizaki, 31, who has played in Sweden for AIK, on loan to Genoa in Italy, in Norway for Valerenga, and since 2006 for Swedish club IF Elfsborg. “Robbie drops down and provides Landon with good balls, and sometimes against certain teams you need a little different style of play, and then you be a little taller in front of goal, so that's probably why they brought in Samuel and Rob.


“Usually, I take set pieces with my old team, and I kind of have a good cross with my right foot, so maybe they'll look to use that as well.”


The ability to go direct will return to the Galaxy a tactic lost when David Beckham departed for France after the 2012 title. They've rarely used true wing play, and although Ishizaki isn't a pure winger, he offers better width on either side.


“Doesn't matter [which side I play on],” he said. “But I don't cross balls as well with my left foot. When I play on the left, I usually go a bit more to the inside and try to get shots off and get combinations with the strikers. But when I'm on the right, it's a little bit more like a crossing style of play, and trying to find strikers in behind the back four.”


The Galaxy were most effective in attack last year when Keane, an MLS MVP finalist who scored 16 goals with 11 assists in just 23 regular-season games, was teamed with Donovan. It's a dynamic duo, truly, but they're both small, mobile attackers -- they're very different players, but neither is a target man, and Zardes -- who has the size to be a target forward -- is more of a mobile, run-at-defenders striker, too, when he's stationed up front.


The depth behind Keane and Donovan was very young. Friend, 31, adds lots of experience -- including a stint in the Bundesliga with Borussia Mönchengladbach -- and will likely serve as a strong mentor for teen Jack McBean. Samuel has been through a bit, too.


Arena said bringing in experience was important.


“We had young players playing a lot of minutes last year,” he said. “I think that will be a good experience for them, but we still need more quality and more experience on the field at times.”


The Galaxy are a more balanced side, yes?


“Definitely,” said Rogers, who is fit and sharp for the preseason after injuries, illness and fitness battles derailed his first campaign with LA. “Especially with the addition of a few proper, big strikers, where they can get behind and hold balls. When we were down in Salt Lake [for the decisive Western Conference semifinal match, won by Real Salt Lake with an overtime goal], it was, like, who's going to win headers and how can we be direct. It was a little difficult to be direct.


“I know that's not really our style, but there's times in the game where you need to be very direct, and we really didn't have that option.”


Most of the key guys in midfield return, including central tandem Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho, and there's considerable depth in central defense and in goal.


Sean Franklin's departure to D.C. United in the re-entry phase has left the left-back post with little depth. A.J. DeLaGarza, who was switched to from the middle to the left early last season, is the No. 1, but his understudies (Home Grown Player Oscar Sorto and natural midfielder Rafael Garcia) are very inexperienced. Potential depth could come from MLS veteran Dan Gargan or L.A. Blues standout Matt Hall, two of the club's three trialists (Fort Lauderdale Strikers goalkeeper Cody Laurendi is the third).


“I think a big part of the team this year is that we're going to have good depth and experienced players that can play different kinds of roles throughout the season ...,” Arena said. “We're hopeful our team is a little bit better and a little bit more consistent, because I thought last year if there was a weakness, it's that we were inconsistent.


“We were one of the top teams in the league in terms of scoring goals and, believe it or not, one of the top teams in defending, especially in the last half of the season. Yet I don't think the results were consistent, so I'm hopeful we have a little bit more quality and a little bit more experience this year that will allow us to perform more consistently.”



 
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01/30/2014
 

The LA Galaxy announced today that the club has signed Swedish midfielder Stefan Ishizaki. A right-sided player, the 31-year-old former Swedish international has spent the majority of his career playing in his native country, spending the past eight seasons with Elfsborg in Sweden’s Allsvenskan (First Division) and helping them win a pair of championships. Ishizaki will be added to the Galaxy roster pending the receipt of his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) and P1 Visa. Per MLS and club policy, details of the deal were not disclosed.

 

“Stefan is an excellent addition to our team,” said LA Galaxy Head Coach and General Manager Bruce Arena. “He is an experienced player, an exceptional passer and a proven winner.”

 

A product of Stockholm, Sweden, Ishizaki began his professional career with AIK at the age of 16, helping them win the Svenska Cupen in his first year with the club. He made his Allsvenskan debut in 2000, playing in 21 games for AIK, scoring three times. Those were the first of 17 league goals that he would score in six seasons for AIK, with who he appeared in 103 league matches. After spending the second half of the 2003/04 Italian Serie B season with Genoa, making four appearances, Ishizaki returned to Sweden for the 2004 season with AIK. However, despite four goals from Ishizaki, AIK were relegated to the Superettan (Second Division) for the first time in 25 years.

 

With AIK relegated, Ishizaki left the club, signing with Norwegian side Valerenga, who he helped to a Tippeligaen (Premier League) championship, scoring twice in 15 games. After spending just a single season in Norway, Ishizaki returned to Sweden in 2006, signing with Elfsborg. He would go on to spend eight seasons with the Boras-based club, winning a pair of championships, claiming the Swedish Allsvenskan in 2006, Ishizaki’s first season with the club, and again in 2012. Elfsborg qualified for European competition in each of Ishizaki’s first seven years with the club and he departs having scored 48 goals in 183 league appearances for the club, while also appearing in more than 40 games for the club in the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, UEFA Cup and Intertoto Cup. In Ishizaki’s eight years with Elfsborg, the club finished outside the top four of the Allsvenskan just once.

 

Ishizaki made his international debut in January 2001 at the age of 18 in a 0-0 draw against the Faroe Islands as part of the 2000-01 Nordic Football Championship, debuting alongside former Galaxy midfielder Christian Wilhelmsson. That was the first of 13 caps that he collected for his country, having last been capped in January 2012 in a 2-0 win over Bahrain. Sweden were 5-2-6 in the 13 games that Ishizaki played in for his country, including a 3-0-5 record when he started a game.

 
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01/30/2014
 

CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy added another attacking player to their roster Thursday, announcing that Swedish midfielder Stefan Ishizaki's long-rumored move to the MLS club had been completed.


The 31-year-old flank player, who has experience with Sweden's national team and in Italy, provides more depth in wide spots for the Galaxy, who hope to diversify their offense after bringing in target forwards Rob Friend and Samuel.


“He's a very good passer. Very composed, experienced, gives us a little something different in the midfield,” head coach/general manager Bruce Arena said following LA's training session Thursday morning. “He'll make plays that will amount to something. We often have a lot of players with a lot of energy, with good intentions, but nothing happens out of that play. I think he's a guy who can make that final pass.”


Ishizaki is comfortable on either flank but has most often played on the right side, which is where the Galaxy have most often employed Landon Donovan and last year used Robbie Rogers. Gyasi Zardes also is competing for playing time on the wings.


Ishizaki, who has a Japanese father and Swedish mother, arrived after eight seasons with IK Elfsborg. He also has played with AIK, on a short-term loan with Genoa, and in Norway with Valerenga.


He signed with the Galaxy before preseason camp opened late last week, but the announcement was delayed while the club awaited his work visa.


Ishizaki is the sixth addition to the Galaxy roster since their 2013 season ended in the Western Conference semifinals. Friend, a Canadian forward who spent the past 11 years in Europe, and Samuel, a 22-year-old Brazilian on loan from Fluminense, arrived earlier this month. Attacking midfielder Baggio Husidic, formerly with the Chicago Fire, was signed in November after the Galaxy acquired his rights last summer.


LA also has signed forward Bradford Jamieson and midfielder Raul Mendiola as Home Grown Players.


 
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