Freddie Ljungberg excited for Seattle debut
Sounders FC midfielder Freddie Ljungberg expects to play 30 minutes this Saturday in his first game since hip surgery.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Real Salt Lake @ Seattle, 7:30 p.m., KONG
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The recorders beeped off after the last response. Freddie Ljungberg moved away from the gathering of reporters asking him questions after Thursday's Sounders FC practice at Qwest Field.
Not without one last comment, however. The Seattle center midfielder looked at the group with a grin.
"And I look forward to playing!" he gleefully pronounced.
Ljungberg's joy is understandable — he's coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, an injury that also adversely affected his hamstring, and says he's a month ahead of schedule in terms of a full recovery.
Ljungberg is well enough, however, to get on the field Saturday when Seattle hosts Real Salt Lake.
"I've been feeling good so it shouldn't be a problem," said Ljungberg, Sounders FC's prized acquisition from Sweden and the English Premier League. "I'll play part of the game for sure."
Ljungberg said he will likely play around 30 minutes, which means he'll probably be a second-half substitute.
"He'll definitely be in our 18 [active roster limit], and we'll see how the game goes and that'll dictate whether or not he plays," Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said. "But I think we're going to expect to see him on the field."
It would be Ljungberg's first action in a game that counts since last June, when he played for Sweden in the European soccer championship. Ljungberg saw action in a Sounders FC reserve game last week; he recorded an assist before being subbed out in the first half.
"I feel a bit, like we say in Europe, like a calf who goes out to green grass after being in the barn for a while," said Ljungberg, who hopes to work himself into the starting lineup soon.
"If it feels great after this 30 [minutes], then maybe we'll start to play from the beginning. And then we'll see when the tank is empty and I maybe have to go off, but that's how we're going to start with it," he said.
Schmid doesn't seem inclined to change the starting lineup he went with in last week's season-opening win, even though defender Nathan Sturgis, who missed the New York game with a quadriceps injury, is ready to play. When Ljungberg is ready to start games, something will have to give, but Seattle got standout play from starting center midfielders Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans in the opener.
"In general, the team played well last week, they got confidence playing as a group," Schmid said. "It's unfair to say to somebody, 'Well, you're out now,' because of this or that, but having options is good."
The best thing for now is to bring Ljungberg off the bench, Schmid said, to ease him into the lineup and decrease the chance of an injury setback.
"For right now it's a matter of being smart, knowing that we're in Game 2 of a 30-game season, and we want to make sure that he's around for the other 28," Schmid said.
• Qwest Field's capacity will drop down to 27,700 for Saturday's game, from 32,000-plus last week. The new configuration will remain in effect until further notice.
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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