BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – For Freddie Ljungberg and Thierry Henry, Sunday night’s Fire-Red Bulls match is a reunion of sorts.
Henry, signed by the Red Bulls to a Designated Player contract in July, and Ljungberg, acquired by the Fire last Friday in a trade with Seattle, developed a close friendship over the course of the eight years they spent together at famed English club Arsenal.
That friendship will be put on hold Sunday night, when the Red Bulls travel to Toyota Park to take on the Fire in a crucial Eastern Conference matchup.
“We came to Arsenal at the same time, so we’re good friends,” Ljungberg said on Wednesday. “We still have contact. There’s going to be a lot of banter I think before the game, but during the 90 minutes on the field you just have to forget about being friends and try to play and win.”
The duo did plenty of winning together, collecting two Premier League championships and three FA Cup titles during their time in North London. They were also part of the Arsenal side that went undefeated in the 2003-04 Premier League season.
“We played with each other for eight years or something so it’s going to be weird [playing against one another],” Ljungberg said. “He’s a great player and great for MLS and I’m just really, really happy he’s here.”
Sunday's match will likely be historic in that it could feature five DPs on the field at the same time for the first time in league history. The Red Bulls' Rafael Márquez and recent Fire signing Nery Castillo — both Mexican National Team players — will probably debut for their respective clubs, while MLS veteran Juan Pablo Angel rounds out the star-studded lineup.
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.