Soccer ace set to bring glory to Seattle Sounders FC

By Stephen King
The Seattle Sounders Football Club (FC) were set to become a formidable force in Major League Soccer, introducing Freddie Ljungberg to their squad in October. Ljungberg, 31, reportedly signed a two-year $5 million contract that will guarantee that Seattle will witness one of the world’s most talented and skillful soccer players perform at his peak. Ljungberg was first internationally recognized when he signed for Arsenal Football Club, England at age 21. It was during his two Premiership titles, three Football Association Cup wins and Champions League final, that the player was hailed as a true soccer legend, being voted Arsenal’s 11th greatest player of all time. More recently, the midfield dynamo has played for West Ham United and captained the Swedish national team in Euro 2008. The former Arsenal legend was advised by friends to continue playing in Europe, only to shock the soccer world, moving to Seattle. Joe Roth, primary owner of Sounders FC and founder of Movie Production company Revolution Studios, wants to make Seattle the platform for serious professional soccer in the U.S. Roth said that he intends, “…, to prove in Seattle, that soccer is not a niche sport…that this is the right city and the right ownership.” Tod Leiweke, CEO of Vulcan Sports and shareholder in Sounders FC, said that Seattle will become “the epicenter of Soccer in North America.” While this is an ambitious statement, Sounders FC will be the only team in Major League Soccer (MLS)to have every game broadcast on television, an indication of the interest that has been generated through the club’s high-profile transfers. While Ljungberg’s arrival is momentous and exciting, he is not the first Sounder to have played in the English Premier League. Kasey Keller, U.S International and former Tottenham Hotspur Football Club goalkeeper, also plays for the Sounders. Keller, originally from Seattle, was influential in attracting Ljungberg to the club, having played against the star in the English Premier League (EPL). Having such a reliable keeper in the team shows that Seattle is serious about becoming a major contender in American and World soccer, Ljungberg said. David Beckham’s move to Los Angeles Galaxy was one contributing factor to Ljungberg’s decision to join Sounders FC. Initially, Beckham’s move to Los Angeles was considered the end of his professional career, but a recent move to AC Milan has improved the reputation of MLS as a professional soccer league. Joe Roth was quick to distinguish between Beckham and Ljungberg though, emphasizing that the new signing is not a “gimmick” to sell tickets. Speculation over the renowned midfielder’s health has cast doubt over the success of the club’s start to the season. General Manager Adrian Hanauer said, “As Freddie increased his training intensity, he suffered a mild re-occurrence of the hamstring problems that have occasionally hampered him over the past two years,” which recently resulted in surgery, ruling Ljungberg out of training for the next 10 to 12 weeks. This is a real cause for concern for local sports fans who are keen to see Seattle succeed in the sporting world, and don’t want their savior to turn out to be Achilles. While Ljungberg has been plagued by injury during his time at West Ham United, the last club he played for in the EPL, it is expected that the star will make a full recovery in time for the start of Sounders FC’s first season, which begins next March. Ljungberg said he is happy to be here and feels welcome, and is looking forward to contributing to MLS. So, all those Seattle sports fans waiting for the team to put us on the map, keep your fingers crossed that Freddie returns to full health. Sounders FC will open training camp January 21. The Major League Soccer season opener is March 19 against the New York Red Bulls at Qwest Field.