TUKWILA, Washington — The Seattle Sounders FC traded designated player and two-time MLS All-Star Freddie Ljungberg to the Chicago Fire on Friday for a conditional pick in either the 2011 or 2012 SuperDraft.
The Sounders quietly announced they had parted with the fading 33-year-old Swedish star in a team statement.
Ljungberg hadn’t practiced with the Sounders for weeks while he rehabilitated an ankle injury on his own. His muted exit from Seattle for a draft choice is the opposite of his ballyhooed entrance to the city and the MLS in October 2008.
That month, the former championship-winning star for Arsenal in England’s Premier League became expansion Seattle’s first designated player in a glitzy announcement. His signing was seen as the latest coup for the upstart American league.
Ljungberg then finished fourth in MLS with nine assists in the Sounders’ inaugural season in 2009.
But he’s been mostly a non-factor this season. He had three assists in 15 games while the Sounders struggled. He hasn’t played since July 4, and his Seattle contract was set to expire in November.
Ljungberg had been Seattle’s highest-paid player at $1.3 million this season. He irritated some teammates during preseason training by showing up late, saying he was waiting for the league’s labor dispute to be settled before joining the squad. He also drew some criticism from Sounders coach Sigi Schmid earlier this season for spending too much time complaining to officials.
“Freddie is a tremendous individual and an exceptional player who contributed greatly to the huge success of Sounders FC, both on and off the field, in the past year and a half,” Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer said in the statement. “Freddie, along with Kasey Keller, gave this club immediate stature in the world’s game, and we are grateful for his service. We wish him all the best in Chicago.”
The Sounders may see Ljungberg again soon. The Fire will visit Seattle on Aug. 28.
“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 was quoted as saying in the statement, referring to Seattle regularly drawing MLS crowds of 30,000-plus since it began play. “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.”
The Sounders added new midfielder Alvaro Fernandez to the active roster. The 24-year-old, who played for Uruguay at the recent World Cup, was acquired on Thursday. He has received his international transfer paperwork and is eligible to play for Seattle on Saturday night at San Jose.
Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.