Fire acquire former Arsenal midfielder Ljungberg


Fire acquire former Arsenal midfielder Ljungberg

Friday, July 30, 2010
5:55 PM

The Chicago Fire have acquired former Arsenal midfielder and Swedish international Freddie Ljungberg from the Seattle Sounders FC for a conditional selection in the 2011 or 2012 SuperDraft.

The move marks the first-ever trade of a Designated Player in the history of Major League Soccer. The 33-year-old midfielder becomes the Fire's second designated player and will become available for selection by Fire Head Coach Carlos de los Cobos this Sunday, Aug. 1 when the Fire take on the LA Galaxy at The Home Depot Center.

"Freddie is an exceptional player, with world-class talent and we are thrilled to have him join the Chicago Fire," Fire Technical Director Frank Klopas said. "He is a player with an illustrious career and as an attacking player he will help us towards our goal of bringing the MLS Cup to Chicago."

Credited as one of the founding members of Seattle Sounders FC, Ljungberg (pronounced LOON-berg) helped lead the expansion side to the 2009 MLS Cup playoffs in their inaugural season. In 2009, Ljungberg tallied two goals and nine assists, including five game winning assists, as the former Arsenal great was named to the 2009 MLS Best XI.

"I have been thinking long and hard about the next step in my career and I am extremely happy to become the newest member of the Chicago Fire," Ljungberg said. "I had a very long and exciting meeting with Fire owner Andrew Hauptman and technical director Frank Klopas.

"Their vision and commitment to this club and to winning championships was extremely appealing to me. I am looking forward to working with my new teammates, meeting the passionate fans of Section 8 and becoming an active part of the community, which has such a strong and successful sports tradition."

Ljungberg is widely recognized for his prominent role in Arsenal's run of two EPL and three FA Cup championships between 1999-2005. The dynamic midfielder appeared in 328 matches for Arsenal from 1998-07, scoring 72 goals and was named 2002 MVP Barclaycard Premier League Player of the Year. In 2001-02 he scored a season high 17 goals in all competitions, including 12 in league play.

During his tenure with Arsenal, the club never finished lower than fourth in the English Premier League and recently, Ljungberg was voted top 11 on the Gunners' all-time top 50 players.

Between his first appearance for Sweden in 1998 (against the United States) and his international retirement following UEFA Euro 2008, Ljungberg played in two World Cups (2002, 2006) and three UEFA Euros. He served as national team captain from 2006-2008 and, altogether, scored 14 goals.

The creative midfielder's first home match for the Men In Red pits him against former Arsenal teammate Thierry Henry, when the Fire host the New York Red Bulls at TOYOTA PARK on Aug. 8.

Fire’s younger players a mixed bag in 2016


Fire’s younger players a mixed bag in 2016

When Joey Calistri subbed on for Arturo Alvarez in the 81st minute of the Chicago Fire's 3-2 loss at Toronto on Sunday it was the first time the rookie homegrown player had seen the field in over a month.

The nine-minute appearance was also more time than he'd seen in a league game in July, August, September and October combined. Calistri played 10 of the Fire's first 13 league matches totaling 333 minutes. In the final 21 matches of the year he made four appearances totaling 15 minutes.

Because Calistri's substitution was the third and final sub for the Fire, it also signified that fellow homegrown players Patrick Doody and Drew Conner would not play in 2016. Both made the list of available substitutes in Toronto, but did not get the call to sub into the match.

This offseason the Fire got younger with first-round draft picks Brandon Vincent (22 years old) and Jonathan Campbell (23), second-rounder Alex Morrell (22), homegrowns Calistri and Conner (both 22) and international players Rodrigo Ramos (21), Khaly Thiam (22) and David Arshakyan (22) joining the team. Some of the players like Vincent and Campbell were major contributors in 2016 and could be a significant part of the team in the future. Meanwhile, the Fire's four homegrown players, 19-year-old second-year pro Collin Fernandez in addition to Calistri, Conner and Doody, combined for two starts. Fernandez made two substitute appearances for a total of eight minutes.

Campbell played in 33 of the Fire’s 34 matches, starting 30 of them at center back, and was in the early running for Rookie of the Year before Jordan Morris, Keegan Rosenberry and Jack Harrison solidfied themselves as the top three in that race. Vincent finished with 24 starts and 26 appearances at left back and was named to the MLS All-Star team. Those two, along with Johan Kappelhof, could potentially form the core of the team’s defense next year.

Another young defender, Ramos, showed flashes of being a dangerous attacking right back and made 16 starts. However, the Brazilian seemed to fall out of favor with Paunovic in the final two months of the season and the Fire will have to pick up the option on his loan to make him a permanent member of the team.

A pair of younger international players, Arshakyan and Thiam, saw semi-regular playing time down the stretch after joining during the season, but neither made a big impression. Thiam, like Ramos, joined on loan so his future remains up in the air. Arshakyan joined the team in August and both Arshakyan and Paunovic have said he is still settling in.

General manager Nelson Rodriguez has talked about trying to form a core of players to build around for years to come. Campbell and Vincent showed the potential to be valuable parts of such a core, but for many of the Fire's younger players, 2016 was a season of missed, or a lack of, opportunities.

Fire wrap 2016 season with loss at Toronto


Fire wrap 2016 season with loss at Toronto

It wasn’t a full youth movement on the season's last day, but there was one new face in the Chicago Fire’s lineup and that could signal something to come in the offseason.

Goalkeeper Patrick McLain made the start in goal for the Fire in a 3-2 loss at Toronto FC to close out the season.

With the Fire out of contention weeks ago, arguably more notable than the result is the absence of Sean Johnson. Johnson did not travel to Toronto as a healthy scratch while McLain got the start and Matt Lampson was the backup. Considering coach Veljko Paunovic's repeated assurance that he would play what he thought was the strongest lineup and not rotate players just to give younger players more playing time, this decision stands out.

This will fuel further speculation that Johnson could leave in the offseason. Johnson, 27, has been with the Fire since being drafted in 2010. He is the longest tenured Fire player.

McLain finished with three saves, including a nice reaction save following a corner kick in the first half.

Johan Kappelhof also did not play due to a right hip injury. Rodrigo Ramos started at right back in his absence.

As for the actual game, the Fire (7-17-10, 31 points) took the lead via Michael de Leeuw’s seventh goal of the season in the 18th minute. Arturo Alvarez picked up his ninth assist by sliding a pass to de Leeuw, who finished from a tight angle.

Toronto (14-9-11, 53 points) tied things up just before halftime when Sebastian Giovinco was tripped in the box by Joao Meira for a penalty kick. Giovinco buried the penalty and the match was tied at halftime.

Giovinco showed why he is the reigning MLS MVP on the second goal. He managed to control a ball while being double teamed in the box and cut by his man to get to the end line and crossed to Justin Morrow, who finished with a powerful header in the 54th minute.

Jonathan Osorio made it 3-1 when he dribbled around McLain and scored in the 62nd minute.

John Goossens, who came off the bench in the first half for an injured Matt Polster, scored in the 83rd minute to make for a closer finish to the game. Goossens half-volleyed a loose ball in the box with a hammered left-footed strike and his third goal of the season. Polster left with a knee injury.

The loss meant the Fire became the first team in MLS history to finish last place in back-to-back seasons.