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10/28/2008 7:52PM

Sounders sign Freddie Ljungberg

Swedish legend will join Seattle as designated player
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A former star with Arsenal and West Ham, Freddie Ljungberg will look to lead the Sounders attack in 2009.
A former star with Arsenal and West Ham, Freddie Ljungberg will look to lead the Sounders attack in 2009. (C. Trewin)

SEATTLE -- With the first game in club history coming ever closer, another piece of the puzzle that will be the new Seattle Sounders FC was added Tuesday, as the signing of Swedish legend Freddie Ljungberg was announced as a designated player.

Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer from day one has spoken about an "attacking philosophy" for the newest team in MLS, and with Ljungberg he has added a proven offensive player. While Seattle has not yet announced a head coach, technical director Chris Henderson and Hanauer have a vision for how the Sounders' newest acquisition will be used.

"Chris Henderson and I have had numerous conversations," said Hanauer. "We came to the conclusion that we thought Freddie would make a spectacular attacking center midfielder. The first time we all got together, Freddie and I sort of brought that up at the same time, and we agreed that it would be a good idea."

It's a role Ljungberg says he would embrace.

"It's up to the coach, but they're probably going to look at me as more of a central role," Ljungberg said. "When I played with Arsenal, when we were hunting down games, I played more centrally. That's probably where I am going to play while I am here."

Indeed, Ljungberg was one of "The Invincibles", the unbeaten Arsenal team of 2003-2004 that won England's Premiership in the process. He has also recently been voted 11th among Arsenal's all-time top 50 players.

Most recently, Ljungberg played for West Ham United in the Premiership. Having missed some time with injuries, there were concerns about his readiness for MLS.

"I feel good," said Ljungberg. "Last season I had some injuries in the fall, and after Christmas, someone jumped on my ribcage and I cracked a rib at the end of the season. However, I played in Euro 2008 and I felt great. Since then I've had a break, I've been training quite hard to keep fit and feel good."

Ljungberg played all 90 minutes in each of Sweden's three games in Euro 2008, being dubbed the 'engine' of Sweden by Austrian newspapers.

Hanauer reiterated the process by which Sounders FC is selecting players in readiness for the club's first MLS season.

"There are a number of characteristics that are important to us," he said. "There are a number of them, but I want to focus on character, intelligence and competitiveness. I truly believe that Freddie encompasses these characteristics.

"I learned last August that he might be available. He's a player who has been a winner at every level. He's known for his grit, his determination and making players around him better. He's played at the highest level for 10 years, over 400 games for club and country. In his four years at Arsenal, he never finished lower than fourth in the EPL. He has played in the FA Cup, Champions League and every major tournament in the world."

Ljungberg will be joining Kasey Keller as headliners for Sounders FC in their first season, a group that will be augmented when the expansion draft is held two days after MLS Cup 2008.

"The game changer was when Freddie came to Seattle," Hanauer said. "We spent some time together and knew that this was going to be an amazing partnership. As well as everything else, he has an amazing ability to teach. We want this and his character in this organization."

More players will potentially be added soon as Sounders FC will host tryouts around the state Washington in mid-November. The tryouts will be the basis of a reality TV show to be broadcast on Seattle TV channels in January 2009. Nine finalists will be selected for a final tryout on Feb. 1, which will be televised immediately following the local Super Bowl broadcast.

Sounders FC staff will oversee the three-hour tryouts, to be held in Spokane (Nov. 9), Tukwila (Nov. 15) and Yakima (Nov. 22). The field will be narrowed in the first hour through a series of speed and fitness drills followed by skills tests and mini-games. Interested participants must register in advance at www.soundersfc.com.

Laurence Moroney is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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