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 year.
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.