The following is the first of five items from a “What’s hot around MLS?” column by Steve Davis for MLSnet.com:
1. Big choices ahead for debuting Seattle: The days ahead will be critical for Sigi Schmid and the debuting Sounders, who will have more on the line than any of other club during next week’s MLS SuperDraft in St. Louis. Obviously, it’s an important event for all 15 sides. Every team can improve in spots, and the draft is among the chief vehicles for doing so.
But as Seattle currently employs just 15 professional soccer players at the moment — with at least two of them still on the injury shelf — Schmid and Co. absolutely cannot afford to whiff on too many of the choices, especially at the high-profile and valuable lucrative No. 1 spot overall.
Even amongst the players most solidly in place on the roster, choices lay ahead. Perhaps the most important is where to fix Freddie Ljungberg among the starting 11.
The Sounders’ Designated Player is recovering from December surgery to correct a hip condition. He’s iffy for the club’s March 19 opener at Qwest Field.
Schmid, making the long trek from Seattle to Florida on Friday for the adidas MLS Player Combine, said he’s spoken to the retired Swedish international about where he best fits.
Most people might remember the noted Calvin Klein model — Ljungberg, that is, not Schmid — as a menace on the Arsenal flanks. That’s where Ljungberg spent the bulk of his pro career before moving across London to West Ham United in 2007.
But he played a central role occasionally for Arsenal, and also played there at times during 75 appearances for Sweden. So, ideally, that’s where Schmid would like to station Ljungberg, either as an attacking midfielder or a second forward. (Remember, that’s how Schmid used Guillermo Barros Schelotto so successfully during last year’s title dash in Columbus.)
“If he can give us the same kind of attacking verve centrally, then that’s where we’d like to have him,” Schmid said. “But a lot of it depends on where all the other pieces fall and how it all fits together.”
Then-Galaxy manager Frank Yallop had the same thought about David Beckham when the England international arrived on scene in 2007. But Beckham struggled to make an impact, and Yallop soon had his stylish midfielder back on the right side, where he felt most comfortable.
For Ljungberg’s part, Schmid says the two have talked and that the player is willing to ply his trade wherever it works best for the team.
By the way, even if Ljungberg can’t make that debut match, it will surely be a big time at Qwest Field. Team officials have sold 18,400 season tickets, and individual seats for matches, including the opener, won’t even go on sale for about another month.