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Ljungberg Here to Entertain, 'Educate' America

The season-long MLS success story that is Seattle Sounders FC still soldiers on, with substantial crowds still filing into Qwest Field despite a recent drop in play, and it's in large part thanks to presence of superstar Freddie Ljungberg, whom Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelley calls "the perfect player, the perfect personality, exactly the right choice, to sell the game and sell this team to this city." "The eye of the hurricane in the Sounders' midfield" and "the calming influence on a team still learning how to play" has Kelley marking him "the steal of the MLS season."

But as important as the Swedish international is for the Sounders on the field, it's clear that he "is here to promote as well as produce. He is here to grow the MLS, to make it more competitive with the already-full plate of American sports," writes Kelley, which Ljungberg has fully bought into (notice how he says "we," not "you" as in "you Americans").

"For soccer, it's important for us to change that a little bit," says Ljunberg. "Get to another level so that great athletes, they will pick soccer instead. Then we get to the level where we produce [Michael] Jordans here. The potential is here for sure. That what we're trying to promote, so that we can get those great athletes to really get hooked into the game."

When friends and former teammates call from Europe inquiring about MLS, Ljungberg says, "I tell them that my experience here in Seattle has been amazing. I could never have dreamed of the way the fans have embraced me." But he also warns them to come with an open mind and not be "disappointed if the ball isn't coming exactly where you're used to having it come. That's part of the deal. That's why we're here. To educate."



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