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Fire acquire Ljungberg in blockbuster trade

NEW YORK – The Chicago Fire may be sitting on the outside of the playoff picture right now, but on Friday they made their ambitions for 2010 abundantly clear with the acquisition of Designated Player Freddie Ljungberg in a trade with the Seattle Sounders. It marks the first trade of a DP in MLS history.

Ljungberg, 33, will join Mexican national team star Nery Castillo, the Fire’s most recent DP acquisition, who was just introduced to the press on Thursday. Chicago adds Castillo and Ljungberg to a lineup which also features MLS All-Star Marco Pappa, former US national team forward Brian McBride and highly regarded attacker Patrick Nyarko.

 Ljungberg heads to the Windy City in exchange for a conditional draft pick in the 2011 or 2012 SuperDraft. The conditions necessary to be met in order for the pick to materialize were not disclosed.

In the process, Seattle also avoids having to pay the “luxury fee” of $250,000 for having three DPs on the books. The Sounders announced the signing of Uruguayan World Cup midfielder and Designated Player Alvaro Fernandez on Thursday but did not officially place him on the active roster until the Ljungberg trade happened. Swiss World Cup star Blaise Nkufo is Seattle’s other DP.

Ljungberg last played for Seattle on July 4, with an injury cited by both player and club sidelining him since then.

The Fire and Sounders are yet to play each other in the MLS regular season. The two matches are scheduled on Aug. 28 at Qwest Field and on Sept. 25 at Toyota Park.

Chicago will begin to make up the six-point deficit in the playoff race with a match at the league-leading Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel). Ljungberg will be available for selection. Fernandez is also eligible to play for Seattle, who sit just one point out of the eighth and final playoff spot and travel to face San Jose on Saturday (10 p.m. ET).