Wednesday, July 21, 2010

SOUNDERS FC: Is Freddie Ljungberg leaving Seattle?

Some fishy things have been going on in the Sounders ranks lately and the whole thing seems to revolve around Freddie Ljungberg. It appears that the former Swedish-national team member’s days in Rave Green may be numbered. According to Sounders Technical Director Chris Henderson, the status of Seattle’s Designated Player is "Day-to-day."

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“We have to see what comes, where he's at and what options are there,” said Henderson. “If something comes where it's a great option for him, we'll talk it over with him together and make a decision. We're all still open to everything. Our goal is to get a playoff spot and whatever way that is for us to do -- whether it's with him or without him -- we need to do what's best for the club. It's really day to day."

Doesn’t sound like good ole number 10 is going to sticking around much longer, especially when you consider a few key facts. First, Ljungberg hasn’t played for the Sounders since July 4 against the L.A. Galaxy in a 3-1 loss at the Home Depot Center.

The Sounders reported that Ljungberg had been nursing an ankle injury, but the way the Swede trotted to the bench three days later as his team played the Galaxy in the Open Cup quarter-finals, it did not seem like he was favoring either ankle.

Ljungberg has missed the last four games due to this phantom injury and will be training with team staff by himself, separate from the rest of the team, based on a Seattle Times interview with Henderson.

To add to the controversy and confusion, the Sounders made the odd move of putting a player on Injured Reserve who doesn’t seem injured at all. After he allegedly sprained his right hamstring as well as the first toe on the same foot, David Estrada, the rookie from UCLA, found himself on the IR list.

Despite the supposed injury, Estrada was a substitution against Celtic FC, scoring the Sounders’ only goal in the match. Placing Estrada on IR also opens a roster spot for Blaise Nkufo, but it only gives Seattle a six-week window to figure out a permanent solution.

Finally, there is the thought that Ljungberg might split for New York to join his old Arsenal teammate Thierry Henry who recently signed with the Red Bulls. In the past, Ljungberg said that he enjoyed playing with the French standout and would welcome an opportunity to play alongside Henry.

This seems like the most likely scenario as the MLS recently changed its stance on the DP rule. Teams may now have up to three Designated Players on their roster and New York has only used up two of their three spots with Henry and Juan Pablo Angel.

So how soon might we know Ljungberg’s fate? Henderson pointed to the closing of the MLS transfer window as one milestone in the decision-making process. Sounders Head Coach Sigi Schmid said that team executives wanted to wait until the end of the season before deciding whom to re-sign.

“I think that was a primary reason for a player like him, with his pedigree and at his age, to say, ‘Hey, I’ve got to start looking at some options to see exactly where I’ll be next year,” said Schmid.

What does this mean for Sounders fans? In short, unless Ljungberg and the Sounders front office can reconcile their differences, Seattle fans should start stockpiling Ljungberg memorabilia.

What do you think about the situation? Should Seattle keep Freddie Ljungberg or should they look for a more productive DP? Perhaps you feel that a DP is more of a PR stunt and a distraction and Seattle should focus on their core roster. Whatever you think, feel free to leave a comment below.

Reach Galen Helmgren at