Sounders trade Freddie Ljungberg to Chicago Fire
Swedish midfielder Freddie Ljungberg, who signed with Sounders FC in 2008, has been traded to the Chicago Fire.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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The Freddie Ljungberg era with Sounders FC is officially over.
Ljungberg, 33, was traded within Major League Soccer to the Chicago Fire on Friday for a conditional selection in the 2011 or 2012 MLS SuperDraft.
The move marks the first time in league history that a designated player has been traded. Seattle general manager Adrian Hanauer said Ljungberg expressed interest in staying in MLS and the transaction was a "collaborative effort."
"I think it's good for the league to have another quality star in the league instead of one going out of the league," Hanauer said. "I have a lot of respect for Freddie. I wish him all the best other than the two games he plays us."
The Swedish midfielder signed a two-year contract in 2008 with Sounders FC as its first designated player. That deal was due to expire in November, but the international star had fallen out of favor in his second season.
The team announced July 20 that Ljungberg would explore options to leave the club, thus starting the countdown to his eventual exit. Ljungberg had been absent from Sounders FC practice for the past several weeks, training on his own and recovering from an ankle injury.
He last played for Seattle in a 3-1 loss at Los Angeles on July 4.
"For Freddie's sake and the team's sake, we didn't want to drag this on all summer," Hanauer said.
After a picture-perfect inaugural season, Ljungberg had several points of friction with team in Year Two. After a home loss to San Jose in May, the former star at Arsenal in the English Premier League drew criticism from coach Sigi Schmid for persistently arguing with referees. He also ruffled some feathers by showing up late to training camp in January.
Schmid and team officials declined to detail when and how the relationship soured, citing it as internal matter, but a rift between the two sides was undeniable.
Sometimes the divide between Ljungberg and his teammates was plainly visible through flight arrangements, when the highly-paid Ljungberg sat in first class while most of the team flew in economy class.
"I want to start off by saying how proud I am to have been part of the most successful new franchise in MLS history, the Seattle Sounders FC," Ljungberg said in a news release. "I didn't know exactly what to expect when I first came to Seattle but I have to say that how the city and the fans have embraced me has gone beyond my wildest dreams and for that I am forever grateful.
"I also want to thank my teammates who are absolutely great on and off the pitch. I have made some very close friends who I know I will be in contact with forever."
In 2009, Ljungberg was an MLS all-star and named to the MLS Best XI, essentially the best 11 players in the league. Last year, he scored two goals and had a team-high eight assists, but this season his production dropped to no goals and three assists in 15 games.
In Ljungberg's absence, another Seattle designated player, Alvaro Fernandez, has been added to the active roster. Fernandez, who signed Thursday and recently received his International Transfer Certificate, and Ljungberg are each eligible to play for their new teams this weekend.
The timing of the moves keeps Seattle from having to pay a "luxury fee" of $250,000 for having three designated players — Swiss forward Blaise Nkufo being the other — on the active roster.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.