Ljungberg, Montero loved first year with Sounders
Freddie Ljungberg and Fredy Montero made it clear Thursday that they loved virtually everything about their first year in American soccer with the Seattle Sounders.
What was less clear was whether they would be back for another year.
Swedish star Ljungberg and Colombian scoring standout Montero are under contract for 2010 after leading the Sounders to the Major League Soccer playoffs in what was a glorious inaugural season.
But the 32-year-old Ljungberg, who is still in his prime, and the 22-year-old Montero, who hasn’t even come into his yet, could have other possibilities in front of them as the Sounders head into the offseason after being eliminated by Houston in the Western Conference semifinals last Sunday.
“I’m still not sure. Next week, I’m going to take some time to sit down and talk to my agent, and look at my options,” Montero, a 5-foot-9 forward whose 12 goals led the Sounders, ranked third in MLS and helped him earn league Newcomer of the Year honors, said through an interpreter. “If the opportunity is here, I’ll consider that. But if there are other options, I have to weigh that and see what’s best for me and my family.”
Ljungberg, a two-time Swedish player of the year who made his name during a nine-year career with Arsenal of the English Premier League, signed in October 2008 as the Sounders’ designated player. Along with U.S. World Cup goalkeeper Kasey Keller, he became the face of the first-year franchise.
Ljungberg racked up nine assists, including a league-leading five on game-winning goals, and scored twice.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “I love it in Seattle. It’s great, and I’ve had a great first season. I said I would sit down after the season, but it just happened, so I haven’t done that yet.”
During the season, various news reports said Ljungberg visited London to talk with Arsenal, and Fulham of the EPL was interested in Montero. Sounders officials did confirm at the time that Ljungberg had gone to London, but did not comment on any further speculation involving either player.
That was still the case on Thursday after the team gathered for a final meeting and talked to reporters.
“There’s nothing to report on that,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “That’s something that’s a fluid conversation. It’s ongoing. Our expectation is that they both will be back next year.”
The Sounders defied the expansion team norm in numerous ways.
They won their first three games – all by shutout with the 39-year-old Keller in goal – and stayed above .500 all season on the way to a final record of 12-7-11.
That included a 3-0-3 mark against the league’s top three teams, Columbus, Los Angeles and Houston. Their 47 points were just two shy of the Crew’s league-leading 49.
In September, they completed a six-game run through the U.S. Open Cup, the American club championship tournament, by beating D.C. United in the title game, 2-1.
Seattle became the first team since the 1998 Chicago Fire to make the playoffs in its expansion year. It also matched the Fire’s expansion feat by winning the Open Cup.
The biggest disappointment, said Schmid, was not going deeper into the playoffs.
“No expansion team has done what we’ve done in an awful long time,” said Schmid. “We have to be pleased with that.”