Freddie: A Sit Down

Crandall speaks to Ljungberg

As I sat down with
Freddie Ljungberg this week for the first time since he joined the Fire, I wasn’t
sure what to expect from him. Last weekend’s events felt like a whirlwind –
they all happened so fast. From his trade, to training with the team the next
day in Los Angeles, to his entrance into the match in the 58th
minute – it all seemed surreal to see the Arsenal legend donning red again,
this time in a Fire kit.

It’s the sort of feeling
you initially get when you begin talking to high profile people. At my senior
age of 25, I had to gather my bearings and remain calm in an effort to avoid
being star struck as we spoke in the Fire Players Lounge Thursday afternoon.

I started off with a question to level the
playing field, as we both have an apparent love of hockey… (I knew this already
– he’s Swedish – all Swedes love hockey!)

Freddie Ljungberg: Of
course I played hockey when I was young – I love hockey. In Seattle I had to
drive four-and-a-half hours to Vancouver to see some games – here hopefully it’ll
be a bit easier. I just love the game – in Sweden soccer and hockey are the big
sports.

See I told you… 

I decided to push him a little more with my next
question,
So Freddie, who has been your favorite NHL team over the years?”

FL: When I was maybe a year old, I had relatives in Canada that gave me a
Toronto Maple Leafs one-piece outfit – supporting Toronto kind of runs in my
family.

I feel you Blackhawks fans, not the exact answer
you wanted to hear from the Fire’s new DP…Just read more…

 FL: Also my good friend Mats Sundin
played there and was the captain there for a long time, so I supported them a
bit.

A bit! See he doesn’t love them! He had a friend
that played there, albeit Mats Sundin, and a one-piece as a child… Devotion can
be diverted. It gets better…

FL: Now I’m in Chicago,
I need to support the Blackhawks.

Zing! As soon as he said this, “Chelsea
Dagger” began to play on a loop in my head.
With all
the goodwill Freddie just got with the city of Chicago, I thought I’d go a
little further and ask what about living in the Windy City he’s looking forward
to…

 FL: What I’ve heard – a lot of people
have said it’s similar to New York, a lot of others say it’s probably the
nicest city in America. Obviously I’m not from here – I tried to ask around to
find out what the city was like. I’m hoping it’s similar to London – it
probably is. I’m looking forward to going and seeing a lot of sport, eat in
some nice restaurants and just go enjoy the city. What I’ve seen so far it’s an
extremely beautiful city and I love the water so I’ll probably be out on Lake
Michigan a bit.

Mad respect to him for not giving generic
answers like “The Willis Tower” or “The Bean” – he does know about Lake Michigan
though…

Enough about this city though, I thought it time
to move on to soccer-related matters… Freddie, what do you remember of your new
teammates Brian McBride and Collins John from your shared time in the English
Premier League?

FL: At Arsenal we always
liked to play against Fulham – we usually played really well – usually won, but
I always liked the way they played, the games were good. Brian was and still is
just an amazing aerial player, he was always quite a handful.  I remember we’d be pressing Fulham and
they’d hit it up to him a lot. He’s very strong and is a very useful piece to a
team. The same with Collins, I played more against Brian than him but it’s the
same thing – he’s strong, he can hold up the ball. I’m looking forward to
working with both guys – they’re great players.

Good answer…speaking of Arsenal, could you talk a
little bit about the “Invincibles” team of 2003-04? SIDEBAR: The 2003-04
Arsenal team won the Premiership, going undefeated in the process and henceforth are called "The Arsenal Invincibles".

FL: We had a great team,
great players. Everybody believed in playing football the same way: Keep the
ball on the floor and make the opponents run. I think someone asked Arsene
[Wenger] at one point that season, who’s your real captain? He responded, “I
have 11 captains on the field, everybody knows exactly what they’re doing.” We
all had a winning mentality. That was the important thing.

We had a teammate once during that season -- I can’t remember who it was –
but we were playing away  at
Liverpool. His wife hadn’t seen the game called him afterwards and asked, “What was the
score?” He responded, “Oh we lost babe.” She said, “I’m so sorry.”

Then he started laughing
and said, “Babe, we do not lose.”

That was kind of the
mentality of the team – wherever we played we were not going to lose. It’s kind
of nice to have that in the team, just knowing you’re going to win the games.

Finally, what pre-game interview in the new world
of multiple MLS Designated Players would be complete if I didn’t ask you about
facing your former Arsenal teammate, Thierry Henry when the Fire welcome the
Red Bulls to Toyota Park Sunday night? (For the TV ratings: LIVE ON ESPN2 and
ESPN Deportes!)

FL: Thierry’s a great
friend of mine, we played together at Arsenal for a long time – I think we
arrive around the same time as well. It’s going to be a little bit sad to play
against him but also nice to see him. We’re going to have to try and forget
about our friendship for 90 minutes – but he’s a great man and a great player.

Looking forward to that handshake Sunday night…
Thanks Freddie!