TUKWILA, Wash. – “From a player’s point of view, we feel like we lost a great player and it was sad to see him go.”
That’s what veteran Peter Vagenas had to say about Freddie Ljungberg’s departure from Seattle. Vagenas was one of Ljungberg’s closest friends on the Sounders squad and believes the club’s first Designated Player will receive a warm welcome from the Qwest Field faithful.
“I was fortunate enough – he was one of the few guys on this team that was in my age bracket, so I spent quite a bit of time with him on and off the field,” Vagenas said.
“He’s had the team over to his house. Things like picking up the check he’s always done. While he was here, there’s nobody that fought more for this team than Freddie did. For that, you can’t fault him either way.”
Vagenas believes that as one of the first players to sign on with the expansion franchise, Ljungberg took a leap of faith and joined the expansion team in 2008, before even Sigi Schmid was announced as the head coach. Ljungberg, with his success with Arsenal and the Swedish National Team, brought the franchise instant credibility.
In his first year, he captained the Major League Soccer team in the All-Star Game and was named to the MLS Best XI. He also appeared on several Seattle promotional items, including bus billboards and online advertisements.
When Ljungberg returns as a member of the Chicago Fire, Vagenas believes the sellout crowd at Qwest Field will recognize Ljungberg for his successes in Rave Green.
“I’m pretty sure everyone’s going to welcome him,” Vagenas said. “I’m sure he’ll get a standing ovation—he deserves it, because he was part of something.
“He didn’t have to come to the Sounders before anything was here. Along with Kasey [Keller], the two of them put this team on the map. That’s something we can’t take away from him.”
Vagenas said Ljungberg called him on Wednesday night to wish his teammates luck in their Champions League match against Monterrey. To a player, Ljungberg seemed to be very well-liked by most of his Seattle teammates. The fans certainly remember him—he was greeted at the airport by a few Thursday evening, signing autographs and posing for pictures.
The former Sounders will surely exchange a few handshakes and kind words with the people he remembers before the match. Schmid admits to some mixed feelings upon Ljungberg’s return.
“It’s emotional, for sure, because he was a member of this team and he was a very important member of this team and helped us get off to a tremendous start,” Schmid said. “But, at the end of the day, he is not on our team right now and he is with Chicago.”