After a two month-long journey that took him to Russia for the FIFA World Cup, back home to Sweden and then to Atlanta to meet up with his MLS club over the weekend, Sounders midfielder Gustav Svensson is back in Seattle.
Physically, he feels great, save for some jet lag. Mentally, he is exhausted, but determined to turn his attention to MLS.
“[I] was empty on emotions a couple of days after, but I had to fly back to Atlanta to find motivation again, to find focus and energy,” Svensson told media on Tuesday. “I have to be professional. I have to make sure I am 100 percent again. I think I did that.”
Looking back on the past year, it’s hard to imagine life would play out like it has for the 31-year-old midfielder. Last August, he was called-in to Sweden for FIFA World Cup Qualifiers for his first international appearance in over a year. Three months later, he was on the pitch when Sweden qualified for the World Cup by knocking out Italy.
In May, it was official: Svensson was named to Sweden’s 23-man roster for the FIFA World Cup. He went on to play in three matches as Sweden reached the quarterfinals.
“I learned a lot,” Svensson said. “It’s always nice to play against the best players in the world. You raise your level and you learn a lot. [I am] grateful to have been a part of that.”
Despite only having a handful of international appearances before playing on the world’s biggest stage, Svensson wasn’t fazed by the enormity of it all. Despite the audience and pressure, it’s still the same game he’s always played.
“When you enter the pitch, it’s just a game,” Svensson said. “Like anyone else, it’s more before the game or after the game you realize how big it is. When you’re on the pitch, when you’re fighting for your teammates and your country, it’s just the same game as the last one.”
After being knocked out by England on July 8, Svensson returned home to Sweden for a few days, where he says “everyone is loving soccer again.” He spent time with family before meeting up with the Sounders in Atlanta. On Sunday, he made his return to MLS in a reserve role during the 1-1 draw against Atlanta United.
“It’s nice to be back again,” he added. “I flew to Atlanta to join the team, played a couple minutes, now I am just trying to adjust.”
While Svensson continues to mentally transition himself back into MLS, he’ll undoubtedly reflect on the journey that took him to Russia. Along the way, he will be inspiration to young players who seek their own World Cup dream.
“I mean, if an old man like me can join the World Cup, anyone can,” Svensson smiled. “You don’t have to be the best soccer player in the world, but you can still do great things.”