Ljungberg to Chicago: A Trade in Time?
On Friday evening came the shocking news from Bridgeview, Illinois that Swedish star Freddie Ljungberg has been traded from the Seattle Sounders to the Chicago Fire for a conditional draft selection. The former Arsenal star and Swedish international, a veteran of multiple World Cups, brings his talents in the midfield to a Chicago Fire team that needs help to even reach a playoff spot this season. The Seattle Sounders having just signed a second designated player to their roster in the form of Uruguayan midfielder Alvaro Fernandez avoid having to pay the MLS luxury tax by moving the Swedish international to the Windy City and move a player in Ljungberg who was clearly wanting out.
Ljungberg had publicly broken with his Seattle Sounders team and his agent had announced his intention to seek other options than remaining on the West Coast where he had not suited up for the Sounders since a Independence Day game against the league leading LA Galaxy. Press reports from Seattle painted a picture of Ljungberg as a player who had separated from the rest of his Sounders teammates. Last year the Swede was signed by the expansion Sounders as their marquee player despite his injuries. Even with injuries being a problem in Seattle he clearly excited the league and the large Seattle crowds as he was named to the MLS All-Star team last season. It has been a different story this season, no goals and reduced playing time with a Seattle team that is suffering from the frequent slumps experienced by second year expansion teams and who like the Fire are currently not in the MLS playoff picture.
As to Chicago, it is a team desperate to make the playoffs. Management would find it unacceptable to miss out on the second season for MLS as well making a early exit if they do reach the playoffs. Frank Klopas, Fire technical director, seems to be driven to improve the team. His first mid-season addition was Mexican scorer Nery Castillo, and Ljungberg gives him the solid veteran presence in the midfield he had been looking for. Frankly, it appears that Ljungberg was not the first choice of the Fire front office but was settled upon as a low risk solution after the team was turned down by one English midfielder according to published reports. On the other hand the Fire were true to their fans by bringing in another designated player as promised. Ljungberg should be able to serve the ball up well to the aforementioned Castillo and wing man Patrick Nyarko and thereby create more space for Chicago hometown product Brian McBride to execute his famous headers in front of the net.
Earlier last week the Fire sent seven year veteran midfielder Jusitn Mapp to the Philadelphia Union to free up salary space. The move was announced as part of the space needed to obtain Castillo but now seems to be a prelude to the Ljungberg deal. Mapp has never seemed quite to reach his potential in Chicago and this season was hampered by injuries.
There are also rumors circulating that the recent play of 2010 draft choice Sean Johnson in the net during the Super Liga may see keeper Andrew Dykstra hit the bench. While that seems unlikely in the short term with a couple bad outings in the Fire’s next two matches against the LA Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls, the Fire may be forced to go with the newcomer Johnson. The release of Jon Busch seems now to even more questionable if the Fire were serious about a title this year. While Dykstra has performed well at times the field generalship of a Jon Busch seems missing. If Freddie Ljungberg came at a small price can Frank Klopas still add a defender to his acquisition list and help the entire team from front to back? The verdict on his first two moves may be determined by if he has a third move to make.