It’s safe to say Seattle Sounders FC didn’t plan to come up
against Freddie Ljungberg as they printed their season tickets earlier this
In his first year with Seattle in 2009, the former Arsenal
man tallied two goals and nine assists, helping the Sounders become the first
expansion side to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs since the Fire did it in
1998. The former Swedish international also led the club to last year’s Lamar
Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship.
As the 2010 season unfolded, it was rumored that things were
not well as they related to Ljungberg and the Qwest Field outfit. Rumored rifts
between the World Cup veteran and his teammates as well as management were
floated and it wasn’t long before the club’s first Designated Player sought a
way out of Seattle.
Joining the Chicago Fire via trade on July 30, Ljungberg
became the first DP to be swapped for in MLS history and has the ironic
distinction of being featured in a lime green kit on the Seattle Sounders
season ticket for Saturday’s clash.
“It was the first thing my teammates said when I got here,”
said Ljungberg following Wednesday’s training session. “I don’t think much
about irony, but of course it’s a funny thing. The most important thing for us
is to go there and win.”
As he returns to Seattle less than a month after his
departure, the attacker was adamant Tuesday that there are no hard feelings
when it comes to his former team.
“A lot of people though I took a gamble going to a new
franchise when I came to America but I thought it was interesting. We won the
cup the first year so there’s a lot of great memories and I have good friends
in ownership and in the team, so it’s going to be nice and sad. A little
bittersweet, I don’t like to play against friends.”
Arguably one of the Fire’s top offensive players this
season, winger Patrick Nyarko was surprised at the rumors of Ljungberg’s rift
with his old club.
“It seems like a case of two different stories because so
far the guy has been great,” said Nyarko. “You see how down-to-earth he is and
he tries to bring his input into every strategy we put out there. He encourages
the young guys to do right. He’s been a great teammate so far – whatever
happened there hasn’t been the case with us.”
Fourth year midfielder Mike Banner agreed with Nyarko’s sentiment.
“I think everyone heard something was going on in Seattle,”
said Banner. “I think they were just rumors though. Since he’s been here, he’s
shown to be a humble guy, considering what he’s accomplished in his career.
He’s the team player more than he is a superstar.”
As Ljungberg set himself to travel back to Qwest Field less
than a month after his departure, he feels that he’s gelling well with his new
club in the Windy City.
“The guys are great here. Carlos [de los Cobos] is great in
the way he wants you to play – he’s very thorough and detailed in training so
everyone knows exactly how he wants you to play, which I like. Whenever you
come into a team its mostly about you but it’s also about your teammates and
they’ve welcomed me so much. I’m forever grateful for that.”
Jeff Crandall is the Team
Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter @JefeCrandall.