Freddie Ljungberg will be on the field Saturday when the Seattle Sounders play the Chicago Fire. But Ljungberg will be wearing Chicago red and not the Seattle rave green jersey with which fans have associated the Swedish midfielder for the past year and a half. Ljungberg left Seattle in late July to join Chicago.
"When I told fans that I was leaving, the people in Seattle were amazing," Ljungberg said. "But then when you get into the stadium, who knows what some fans will say?"
Ljungberg led Seattle to the 2009 Major League Soccer playoffs, getting two goals and nine assists in 22 regular-season games, including 21 starts. It's the type of production Chicago needed, and Ljungberg has supplied it with three assists in four games.>
"I have great teammates," Ljungberg said. "The coach is very clear on how he wants to play, and I just feel happy when I'm on the field here."
Ljungberg being happy and successful is essential if Chicago is going to be one of the eight playoff teams. The Fire are in 10th place, four points behind the Colorado Rapids, who would have the final playoff bid.
"There's pressure for everyone to win," Chicago technical director Frank Klopas said. "We have a history and a tradition, so there's some pressure in that way. ... We haven't won a championship since 1998."
The Fire went 0-2 in July but have enjoyed a rise in August and head into Saturday's game 2-1-1 this month.
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With 2010 MLS All-Star midfielder Marco Pappa and veteran American international standout Brian McBride, Klopas and Chicago have built a strong foundation. When the possibility of adding Ljungberg arose, Klopas seized the opportunity.