When the Sounders FC hosted FC Barcelona at CenturyLink Field on August 5, 2009, it was an outstanding advertisement for what soccer can be in Seattle. With 66,848 mostly Rave Green-clad fans in attendance, it was surely a great display of the support and atmosphere in the stadium, as well as a beautiful summer day outside of it for the 2009 European champions.
One of the players on the field that day was Icelandic forward Eidur Gudjohnsen and on Wednesday, he began training with the Sounders FC in a sudden move when he left AEK Athens in Greece this summer that came virtually out of nowhere for Seattle.
“This one was a little bit out of the blue. We were contacted by his representation and anytime you get a chance to look at a player of Eidur’s quality and CV, you jump at it,” Sounders FC owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “Obviously we got a chance to see him today and we’ll get a chance throughout the week, and then we’ll see from there.”
The Sounders were back in their first training session at their Starfire training complex after a road swing that took them to Trinidad for CONCACAF Champions League and to Frisco, Texas, for an MLS match against FC Dallas.
There, they were joined by Gudjohnsen, 33, who has won titles in the Netherlands, Spain and England, along with the 2008-2009 UEFA Champions League crown. He will train with the team this week and could sign with the club to finish out the 2012 season.
“Obviously we have a lot of talk left to do, but we didn’t bring him in to sign him next year, necessarily,” Hanauer said. “We brought him in because we think there’s a chance we could do something this year. Again, there’s a lot of getting to know each other still ahead before we get to that.”
For his part, Gudjohnsen came in to training on Wednesday as ready as he could be after a long travel day got him to Seattle.
He went through the paces with the team in a sun-drenched training session and head coach Sigi Schmid was happy with what he saw in his first day.
“You can tell he’s a good player. You can tell by the touches and the movement,” Schmid said. “Everyone brings a different quality and a different dimension. He’s a strong guy. He can post up. He can hold the ball. He finds his little options off of that. But for the first day, he’s got to settle in and it’s tough traveling 13 hours - we know that from when we went to Trinidad and then tried to play.”
Gudjohnsen is expected to be in attendance for the Sounders FC’s match against Chivas USA on Saturday, but it is far from the first time he will see CenturyLink Field.
In addition to his 45-minute appearance with Barcelona in a 4-0 win over the Sounders FC in a friendly in 2009, he also had a goal and an assist for Chelsea in a 4-2 win over Celtic at CenturyLink Field – then called Seahawks Stadium – in 2004.
Despite an accomplished resume that includes stints with PSV Eindhoven, Chelsea, Barcelona and Monaco, among others, in his 18-year professional career, Gudjohnsen was willing to make concessions for an opportunity to play with the Sounders this season. The club is aware of his career exploits, but wants to look at how he fits with the team this week.
“He sort of understands our situation, so we’ll see how things go,” Schmid said. “Obviously he’s a talented player with a great pedigree and we’re honored as a club that he would consider our team, so we’ll see how things go this week.”
The Sounders will host Chivas USA on Saturday at 1 p.m. at CenturyLink Field, then in a reserve game on Sunday at 11 a.m. at Starfire in Tukwila. It is possible, but not certain, that Gudjohnsen could appear for the Sounders in the reserve league match.