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LA Galaxy Midfielder Stefan Ishizaki is Leaving MLS to be with Pregnant Wife

Stefan Ishizaki parents father mother
Stefan Ishizaki parents father mother

CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy officially welcomed Steven Gerrard to the club in a rousing halftime presentation during their 4-0 romp over Toronto FC on Saturday night at StubHub Center.

About an hour later, after the final whistle, the club revealed that midfielder Stefan Ishizaki had just played his final game for the club and that he was returning home to Sweden before his wife gives birth to twin sons later this year.

It made for an emotional evening for the 33-year-old midfielder, who played the full 90 minutes and assisted on the second of Robbie Keane‘s three goals with a penetrating no-look pass thatBaggio Husidic relayed into the goalmouth for the finish.

“When I asked [Bruce Arena, the Galaxy’s coach] about me being able to go back to Sweden, I said, ‘This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, but it’s for the sake of my family,’” Ishizaki said in the locker room following the game. “It’s always tough. I’m leaving a great club; it’s sort of like my family now. … It’s been a great year and a half, and I’m going to miss it. It’s going to be one of those memories I’m going to have with me the rest of my life.”

Ishizaki, who played primarily on the right flank for LA, signed with the club in January 2014 and made 22 regular-season starts last year, plus four starts in the Galaxy’s postseason run to the MLS Cup title. He scored five goals and had seven assists in the regular season, plus another assist in the playoffs.

This year, Ishizaki started 19 games and played in 20 of 21 league matches, with a goal and five assists to show for it.

Arena praised Ishizaki as “a very good teammate” and “outstanding player for us.”

“We only found out a couple weeks ago,” said Keane, LA’s captain. “Obviously, we didn’t expect that. 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 came in. From day one, he’s been brilliant with the players, the staff, and, most important, he’s been great on the field. We’re certainly going to miss him.”

During his stay, Ishizaki took most of the corner kicks and a lot of the attacking-half free kicks for the Galaxy.

Stefan Ishizaki wife
Stefan Ishizaki wife

“We’re going to miss his dangerous service,” defender A.J. DeLaGarza said. “Probably the best passer on this team, and Bruce has harped on that since he’s been here every day in practice. Just going to miss him. A great guy off the field, as well.”

Ishizaki said he and his wife, who already have one young son, decided they needed additional support from their families with the impending arrival of twins.

“We’re going to need all the help we can get …,” he said. “One of my best friends in Sweden had twins a couple of years ago, and he used to play in Holland, and he said he needed to be close to family and get all the help he could, and even though he had family nearby, he said it still wasn’t easy.

“With us being here and being so far from our families, it’s been tough. And it’s been tough [with a young son unable to see] his grandparents, and they’re missing out on his childhood. It was a tough decision, but it’s one of those things I have to do for my family.”

Ishizaki revealed to Swedish media about a month ago that he would not extend his Galaxy contract beyond this year, so a few Swedish clubs made overtures about signing him in December, and he said Arena urged him to begin dialogue with them. Offers began rolling in after he informed them he was leaving the Galaxy this summer, and he has “a couple of leads back in Sweden, but nothing is finalized yet.”

He wouldn’t identify the clubs, but said they were “two black and yellow clubs” and that he “might have played for one of them.” Swedish media have linked him to AIK, one of Stockholm’s biggest clubs and where Ishizaki began his pro career. Yes, AIK wears a black-and-yellow uniform.

Wherever he ends up, Ishizaki will take the memories of the Galaxy’s spectacular 2014 campaign. And a championship ring.

“Getting a Cup out of it was all I wanted from this experience,” he said. “Winning something and going back to Sweden [as a] champion. I’m happy with what I’ve performed here, and I’m very sad that I have to leave.”

via Why Swedish midfielder Stefan Ishizaki is leaving the LA Galaxy |