Breaking down the new Sounders star

So it's been official for a few days now - Swedish soccer star Freddy Ljungberg has been signed to the Sounders FC for two years, and will be the attacking midfielder in what should be an attack-minded formation. To Freddy, should you read this (hah), I welcome you to our fine city, hope you enjoy your time here and with the Sounders and look forward to watching you play in April.

Alright, enough pleasantries. His signing is a very high-risk, high-reward one. So how's he gonna do? Hard to say, obviously, but I think his acquisition is reminiscent of 3 major signings in MLS over the last year and half. Those would be Darren Huckerby, Marcello Gallardo and David Beckham. Take a little bit from each of those guys and you have a good approximation of what Ljungberg should be like in his time with the Sounders. Huckerby for his ability to light up an expansion team and be a tough team leader, Gallardo for his skill in central midfield - and also his liability to injury, and Beckham obviously for the star power and sexiness.

Now, there has been much discussion of Ljungberg's health, after being cut from his last employer, West Ham, while he was injured. That wasn't the only reason he was let go, however. Although it hasn't been widely reported, or indeed reported at all, this past summer Freddy was dealing with some very serious issues in his family back in Sweden, and reportedly he asked for his release. Out of respect for him I don't want to talk about those details, but the point is he shouldn't be as banged-up as most people think he is. He believes, anyway, that he is still not far removed from his peak as a player, and I have no reason to doubt him.

Should he go out due to injury, he will need a capable backup so the Sounders attack doesn't implode like Iceland's banking system. Ciaran O'Brien, who was loaned to the USL Sounders from Colorado (where he never plays), would seem to be a perfect fit. Go get him, Adrian!


The Freddy and Freddie show

By now, news that former Arsenal and Sweden star Freddie Ljungberg has been seen in Seattle is going around the internet. Reportedly, the winger slash model will be returning to town next week (October 30?) to announce his signing. Presumably he would be the Sounders Designated Player, as he'd probably command over the MLS maximum of 400k. Whether this would be a good signing, economically speaking, is still highly up for debate. Read: I'm not sure. His health has been an issue, so that's a huge wild card. If and when that signing does officially occur, we'll know much more about his current quality and form.

There are no questions, however, about the talent of Freddy Montero. According to a Spanish website, the Columbian youngster's rights have officially been bought by Seattle - in a transaction nearly 2 weeks ago! In fact, they are reporting that Deportivo Cali has already recieved the 2 million dollars transfer fee from the Sounders. Leaving aside the unlikely possibility that the entire thing is completely made up, the next question is this - why hasn't it been more widely reported? Well, there are multiple other teams from more respected leagues (Argentina and Europe) still looking to sign Montero. My best guess is that Seattle is strongly considering selling him on to one of those clubs, and as such don't want his signing announced in case he never puts on a Sounders uniform.


Your chance to ask Nate Jaqua

Have a question you'd like to ask a top striker in MLS? I'll be talking with Houston Dynamo forward Nate Jaqua, who has featured for the national team, is also an Oregon boy and is a very possible Sounder in 2009. So if you have something you'd like to ask, let me know. Post in the comments or send me an email by Friday morning.


It's Columbus Day!

It seems appropriate to celebrate the best team in Major League Soccer on Columbus Day. So let's give it up for the Crew, the Supporters Shield winners of 2008 and the unquestionable top squad in the league. Columbus tends to not get a lot of respect (admittedly, I think I picked them to miss the playoffs at the start of the season) so their storybook season is all the sweeter.The obvious question arises: how did they do it? What caused their transformation, in just one offseason without many changes, from a bottom-of-the-league side into a yellow and black wrecking ball? The obvious answer seems to be having Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who is more like a magician than a soccer player, for a full season. Their midfield maestro has racked up almost 20 assists in just over 20 games, and is one of two serious candidates for MVP honors. (The other, obviously, is LA's Landon Donovan.) But although GBS is an essential part of their team and a real delight to watch, it's not all on his Argentinian shoulders. The Crew have won with and without him. No, the answer isn't just one or two players - it's all of them.

No side has more top-to-bottom talent than the Crew, save maybe Houston, the top club in the West. Columbus has very capable defenders, with starter-quality players going 5 or 6 deep and led by veteran fan-favorite Frankie Hejduk. They have more than capable goalkeeping, with Will Hesmer having the season of his life. The midfield is led by Schelotto, but there's quality from him to wings Robbie Rogers and Emmanuel Ekpo to CDM Brian Carroll. They're so stacked for talent that the excellent Pat Noonan, recently back from Europe, is largely superfluous. Their substitutes are by far the best in MLS. And the fans have responded with greatly improved crowds and invigorated supporters groups, proving that the Buckeyes aren't the only game in town.

The teams with the biggest stars have been the biggest flops this year, with DC United and the LA Galaxy having hugely dissappointing seasons. So hat's off to the Columbus Crew, showing the league that the key to winning in Major League Soccer is to assemble an all-around talented squad, even if the names are a little less flashy. But you'd better win the Cup this year, Columbus. I sure won't be cheering for you in 2009!


Sounders sign South American striker?

Adrian Hanauer's scouting trips are already paying dividends, if the growing buzz is to believed. If so, then the Sounders are about to sign Freddy Montero, a 5 ' 8", 21 year old Columbian striker (who also features at attacking midfield) who has played for Columbia's national team. The speedy, extremely talented Montero had been linked with a move to a powerhouse club in Romania, but apparently is on his way to Seattle for a huge transfer fee of 2 million dollars. (I am fairly certain that the transfer fee would NOT count against the salary cap, meaning Montero would not necessarily be a Designated Player.) Montero also shares an agent with Jamison Olave of Real Salt Lake, who came to MLS from Montero's current club this year.

The deal has not been finalized or confirmed by either the Sounders or Montero's current team, Deportivo de Cali. There is the possibility that the Sounders may just be buying his contract in order to send him on to Europe. The story is all over the internet, and while I do speak/understand Spanish, I don't know how reputable the apparent original source (enlajugada.com) is. *****UPDATE***** All the Sounders will say is that he is a 'player of interest' at the moment, but leaks suggest otherwise. Montero is currently off with his national team for two games - so perhaps the deal won't be confirmed until after that, late next week.


The Sounders FC roster breakdown

18 spots on the senior roster
3 players signed: Kasey Keller (GK), Sebastien Le Toux (F/M), Sanna Nyassi (M)
10 picks incoming from the expansion draft
3-4 USL Sounders being called up
3-4 international signings (roughly)
1-2 college players from MLS SuperDraft

As you can see, there are probably going to be more players incoming than there are spots. So some trades are going to have to happen. In reality, probably only about 7 of the expansion draft picks will actually be Sounders - the others will traded elsewhere for future draft picks, allocation money, or something like that. So take 7 players from there and add the 3 signed already. For the USL players, Chris Eylander (GK) and Taylor Graham (D) are almost locks, and probably either Kenji Treschuk (M) or Josh Gardner (M) gets called up as well. So that's a total of 13. Add the top draft pick for 14, and there's 4 spots left for international signings to create the worldly team the Sounders want so much. Over the next 6 months, the roster dealings should turn out pretty close to this.