Fire acquire former Arsenal midfielder Ljungberg

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Fire acquire former Arsenal midfielder Ljungberg

Friday, July 30, 2010
5:55 PM

CSNChicago.com

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.

Dax McCarty has 'fingers crossed' in hopes of playing in Gold Cup

Dax McCarty has 'fingers crossed' in hopes of playing in Gold Cup

Since Bruce Arena took over as national team coach, Dax McCarty has been regularly called in to join the Americans.

The Chicago Fire's 30-year-old midfielder was recently with the U.S. for a pair of World Cup qualifiers. He didn't play in either game, a 2-0 win against Trinidad & Tobago and a 1-1 draw at Mexico, but got to enjoy the experience of the famous Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

“Awesome experience. Definitely a game that doesn’t matter if you play or don’t play," McCarty said. "Definitely a game you’ll never forget. I think it’s probably one of the most historic stadiums in the world. A lot of history there. A lot of bad memories for the U.S., but I’d say the reason you go down there is to try to make good, new memories."

Michael Bradley scored a jaw-dropping goal with a chip from just inside the halfway line before Mexico answered later in the half. The U.S. has never won at the Azteca, but this was a second straight draw in World Cup qualifying there.

McCarty hasn't played in a qualifier yet, but has been included on each of the three rosters Arena has been able to call in since replacing Jurgen Klinsmann. The U.S. is 2-0-2 in qualifiers under Arena and appears back on track to make the 2018 World Cup.

"Win your home games, you draw on the road, that’s a recipe for qualifying," McCarty said. "We’re back on track now and I think everyone has really good spirits heading into the next round of qualifiers and the Gold Cup.”

The Gold Cup is a chance for McCarty to not only be on the team, but get some playing time with the national team. In early June, he was included on the 40-player preliminary roster for the Gold Cup (along with Fire teammate Matt Polster). That group will be cut down to 23 for the final roster, but does not feature many of the European-based national team regulars, meaning players like McCarty could see bigger roles.

McCarty said he doesn't yet know if he will be included in the final Gold Cup roster, which is expected to be announced this weekend.

“The coaches gave me great feedback, but until a final roster comes out or until I’m notified that I’m part of the roster you never know for sure," McCarty said. "Fingers crossed. I’m hoping to be there and I guess we’ll find out in the next week.”

Training camp for the Gold Cup will begin on June 25 with a friendly against David Accam's Ghana on July 1 before the tournament opener takes place July 8.

Bastian Schweinsteiger talks about playing sweeper in the Fire's win at New England

Bastian Schweinsteiger talks about playing sweeper in the Fire's win at New England

The Chicago Fire keep winning and Bastian Schweinsteiger continues to be at the heart of the team’s success.

The German played a new role in the Fire 2-1 win Saturday at the New England Revolution. Instead of his typical central midfield spot, Schweinsteiger lined up between the two central defenders, Johan Kappelhof and Joao Meira, as a sweeper or libero.

At its base, a sweeper was initially known as a last line of defense, someone who would clean up any attacks that got past other defenders. However, as the position evolved it started to be used more as a tool to create possession and attack play.

Schweinsteiger played this role for most of the match on Saturday. He had defensive responsibilities, largely marking New England striker Kei Kamara, but also started most of the Fire’s build up play. He became the point man who started and controlled things when the Fire were in possession.

In the Wikipedia entry for sweeper, the first player named is Franz Beckenbauer. Beckenbauer, who finished his career with the New York Cosmos in 1983, helped Germany win the 1974 World Cup and is widely regarded as one of the best players of his generation. He was one of the key players in changing the sweeper position from a solely defensive role into one that has attacking responsibilities as well.


Beckenbauer retired before Schweinsteiger was born so Schweinsteiger never got to see him play live, but has seen some old videos of him on TV. When asked about playing Beckenbauer’s position, Schweinsteiger said it’s a “big honor,” but hadn’t thought about that previously.

“I can’t really speak about it because I didn’t know exactly,” Schweinsteiger said. “I knew that he was also playing in the center sometimes as a libero or a midfield player, but I think a lot of teams are actually playing this system. I think Juventus, Chelsea, there are some teams, even Bayern Munich, that are playing it. It’s just a different playing style. Some more defenders, some more midfield players so it depends a little, but I like it.”

Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said the decision to go with the move was based on a few factors, mostly New England’s narrow attack with Kamara, Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez as the primary attackers.

“Three guys that play very narrow,” Paunovic said. “We thought that could be a good solution. Obviously he has qualities to play (as a sweeper). The experience, the vision as a midfielder and I spoke with him and he did play in the past that position. He agreed also that he could play it because we also needed it for this game.”

Paunovic said the plan was in place in advance of the game and he liked how it looked in practice. He called it “another weapon” that the Fire can use in the future.

“We played out of the back,” Paunovic said. “We could see clearly that he is our man that created superiority for the build up. Everything went well.”

It doesn’t sound like utilizing Schweinsteiger in this way is something the Fire will use regularly, but it could be used again.

“Sometimes you have to play different,” Schweinsteiger said. “We always try to make it difficult for the opponent obviously. That’s the goal in every match. It always changes. It depends. Sometimes we play like this, sometimes we play different. Let’s see what’s next.”