The Seattle Sounders FC, MLS' newest team, announced their newest signing on Tuesday afternoon. Swedish winger Freddie Ljungberg has joined the expansion club as a Designated Player, becoming the team's fourth player signed. The Sounders are still without a coach, however.
Ljungberg said that he had been questioned about a move to MLS by many people who thought the 31-year-old should continue to play for one of the high profile clubs in Europe rather than coming to the U.S. He admitted that he felt as though he could have stayed in Europe for a few more years.
"[But] I thought it would be a lie to the American fans to come later," he said on a conference call. "For me, personally, when I get on the pitch, I go 100 percent. I want to play well."
At Arsenal, where Ljungberg spent nine seasons, the flamboyant midfielder compiled several personal honors including the 2002 Barclay's Premier League Player of the Year. But a summer '07 transfer to West Ham proved unproductive. He was released by the Hammers in August after scoring only two goals and suffering a rib injury that ended his season in April.
After seven months out of action, Ljungberg is now hoping that a move to MLS will help him jumpstart his career and rebuild reputation.
"While I've been off I've trained every day," he said. "I've trained hard the last month and my body has held up well."
Moving to a new league will offer Ljungberg a new set of challenges. The travel in MLS can be brutal to players from Europe but Ljungberg thinks that his experience playing in the Champions League with Arsenal and flying to games all over Europe has him well prepared for the grind of the American season. The former Calvin Klein underwear model is also ready to be the face of the new franchise.
"I think the whole team will feel pressure," Ljungberg said. "If at the end of the day there's more pressure on me I think that's a good thing."
He acknowledged the improvement of play in MLS over the last few years, but said that he had not contacted any of the other recent imports to MLS. He said he did his own research on the league by buying DVDs and watching games when he could.
"It looks like the players are very fit and work hard," Ljungberg said. Seattle will play on an artificial surface at their home stadium, Qwest Field. "I've never played on artificial turf before but it looks good."
Ljungberg joins another former EPL player, American goalkeeper Kasey Keller, and two other players, 19-year-old Sanna Nyassi, twin brother of New England Revolution midfielder Sainey Nyassi, and '07 USL first-division MVP Sebastian Le Toux as the franchise's first official signings.
The next big step for the Sounders is the expansion draft on Nov. 26.