Sounders FC opens training without Freddie Ljungberg
Sounders FC opened training camp for its second season Monday without star Freddie Ljungberg, who remains in Europe.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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TUKWILA — Year 2 of Sounders FC began in sunshine Monday at Starfire Sports Complex.
It did not, however, begin with a top player, midfielder Freddie Ljungberg. And that cloud was darkened by the ongoing labor dispute between Major League Soccer and its players union, which could put a stop to all MLS training camps by Monday.
Sounders FC can only wait to see what comes of the collective bargaining agreement negotiations, and can only wait for Ljungberg, the team's highest-paid player, who is entering the final year of his contract, to report. Unless Sounders FC makes a deal with a club in Europe that keeps Ljungberg there.
"Freddie Ljungberg's status right now is one where he is looking at options in Europe," Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said after the team's opening practice. "As a club, we've talked, and we've considered some of those options. As of yet nothing's really happened, so we expect him here. Exactly when the date is that he is going to be here, I'm not exactly sure, but that's an ongoing situation."
The European transfer window, or period of time when a player can be dealt to another team, ends Sunday. That's also the deadline for the CBA. Ljungberg has said he is waiting to see what comes of the MLS labor talks.
Sounders FC released a statement Monday regarding Ljungberg's situation.
"We have been in constant dialogue with Freddie Ljungberg's representatives. He is in Europe but we hope to have him join our training soon. We cannot comment on speculation nor discuss any interest on the part of other clubs. Freddie remains under contract to Sounders FC."
This is not an excused absence for Ljungberg, nor is it a holdout; the designated player seems willing to accept whatever penalty he faces.
Schmid was asked if it's OK that Ljungberg is not in camp.
"It's not OK, and that'll be something that we'll handle internally as a club in terms of whether there's fines or anything like that," he said. "All of them (players) would like to miss a week. We can't let them all miss a week. So from that standpoint, we've got to just hold them all to a standard."
Ljungberg was the only notable absence Monday, as striker Fredy Montero — rumored to be the target of clubs in Turkey and Russia — was in camp and announced that he had brought more family members to Seattle from their native Colombia to live with him. All three Sounders draft picks from last month were also present.
The CBA talks were a main theme Monday. Schmid said he addressed the matter with the team and that the plan is to move forward with its practice schedule and preseason itinerary until or unless the situation forces change.
Players didn't seem too concerned about a work stoppage.
"I'm not too stressed about that. If it happens, it happens, you can't do anything about it," goalkeeper and team captain Kasey Keller said. "We've all seen labor negotiations over the years and 99 percent of the time, they get handled pretty well. We have confidence in our guys and we know that the owners want to keep the momentum going."
James Riley, a Sounders FC player representative, said he's optimistic of a resolution and told the team to focus on training. He added that a lockout is detrimental to the league.
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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