Freddie and the Press

Apparently Mr. Ljungberg can leave London, but paparazzi are prepared to follow. Clearly, the world is abuzz about Freddie.“Welcome,” said the soft voice from the back seat, “to Europe.”

Peering out the tinted black window, he could see two cars carrying press photographers from Sweden. Their objective: To capture the likeness of Freddie Ljungberg.

They had come a long way, Freddie and the photogs, for these cars were traveling up Seattle’s First Avenue. Apparently Mr. Ljungberg can leave London, but paparazzi are prepared to follow.

Freddie Ljungberg

Clearly, the world is abuzz about Freddie.

By the morning after Freddie’s signing, one media tracker totaled nearly a thousand papers in 37 different countries heralding the news. That’s excluding the hundreds of blogs and online forums.

Twenty-four hours prior to the announcement of his signing with Sounders FC, all was seemingly quiet.

Before beginning a tour around downtown to publicity photos for the club, Freddie walked into a Pike Place Market coffee shop unnoticed. An hour later, he was no longer moving about incognito.

The Swedish press were polite yet persistent. They had flown from Stockholm to Seattle on Saturday. Freddie arrived a day later, and managed to move about undetected until a brief stop at Qwest Field’s Pro Shop. Outside, the cameras were poised to begin clicking.

Graciously, he welcomed them, paused, smiled and then got in the car. They followed, but soon were swallowed in busy traffic, not to be seen again.

Next stop, Queen Anne’s Kerry Park for the money shot with the Sounders FC scarf and Space Needle in the background.

When Tuesday came, Freddie was ready. He’s a hard-running, creative thinker on the pitch, and he was on his game during a grueling schedule of interviews.

If Freddie had applied an icepack to his jaw following that evening’s final event, it would’ve been understandable. Apart from a couple quick meals, this genuinely nice but quiet guy was being interviewed from near and far, from 11 to 7.

Although the questions were largely repetitive, Freddie gave fully detailed and thoughtful answers. And then his jaw fell off.

Sounders End on High
They packed as much as possible into their last go-round. The USL Sounders squeezed a fifth match into an already-crammed itinerary, playing and winning just a few hours before boarding their plane home.

Seattle won all of its games and accomplished all of its objectives, many of which concerned a tentative preseason tour by Sounders FC in February.

Sanna Nyassi, the 19-year-old Gambian, seemed to come into his own during the trip, says Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer.

“A number of factors worked in Sanna’s favor,” Schmetzer points out. “He’s healthy, the guys know how to play to his strengths and the fields were huge, 80 by 120. With that much space he was getting by his guy and then there was no cover.”

The Sounders surprised their hosts and the local papers began taking notice. Schmetzer used every available player (Sebastien Le Toux was out after taking a knock on the knee in the opener), and he says he learned a lot about the Latin America style of play.

“I can’t imagine us having a better trip,” he says.

The Band Played On
The Freddie Day activities also featured the unofficial debut of the Sounders FC band, which trumpeted the player’s entry into the fans’ reception to the tune of Get Ready.

“The band members were fired-up at the signing of Freddie, and some of them got to meet Kasey Keller as well,” says director Keith Rouso. “There was a buzz in the air and I’d say we’re off to a good start.”

Rouso had 31 of his 53 musicians available for the fest, which was punctuated by the Sounders fight song which traces back to the original club’s 1974 start. That theme song embraces both the past and the future.

“We have received outstanding support and we’ve accomplished a lot in our short time together,” says Rouso. “We still have a long way to go to reach our vision for the band.”

The Sounders FC band’s first official gig is the Nov. 28 Downtown Holiday Parade.

Turn On, Tune In
Sat., Nov. 1
8 a.m. (PT), Fox Soccer Channel, Chelsea v Sunderland
Why Watch: The Blues are now human, but when did they last lose two in a row at home?

10:30 a.m. (PT), FSC, Tottenham v Liverpool
Why Watch: Harry will need to work his magic again in bottom v top matchup

2:30 p.m. (PT), FSC, Real Salt Lake v Chivas USA
Why Watch: Real is undefeated since leaving SLC for Sandy

5 p.m. (PT), HDNet, Kansas City v Columbus
Why Watch: Wizards, 9-2-4 at home, face MLS-best Crew in first leg

12 noon (PT), Gol TV, Malagna v Barcelona
Why Watch: Malagna has won four straight while Catalans have scored in bunches

Sun., Nov. 2
11:30 a.m., FSC, Milan v Napoli
Why Watch: After slow start, Kaka and Ronaldinho are unbeaten in 10,

12 noon (PT), Setanta, Lyon v Le Mans
Why Watch: Co-leaders and champs host Ligue 1’s No 4

Mon., Nov. 3
Set, 12:30, Newcastle v Villa
Why Watch: All but two Magpies matches have been decided by one goal

Tue., Nov. 4
11:45 a.m., ESPN2, Olympique de Marseille vs. PSV Eindhoven
Why Watch: Marseille needs a victory to stay alive

Wed., Nov. 5
11:45 a.m., ESPN2, Real Madrid v Juventus
Why Watch: Group lead on line at the Berna

Saturday is Neil Callahan Night at Seattle Pacific, with the Falcon men and women facing Cal State L.A. in a doubleheader, beginning with the men at 4:30. Halftime of the women’s 7 o’clock game will feature a presentation to the family of Neil, a longtime youth soccer activist. There will also be a 50/50 raffle with 50 percent of the proceeds going to the Neil Callahan Scholarship Fund of Seattle Youth Soccer…Make your plans now to join the Emerald City Supporters for an MLS Cup viewing party Nov. 23 at the George Dragon. The G&D was recently voted best neighborhood pub by Evening Magazine viewers…Puget Sound, rated No. 6 among Div. III women’s teams, has won 12 straight going into the final four regular season matches. The Loggers’ latest win came over No. 18 Whitworth…The Western Washington women, unbeaten in their last 11, remain atop the Div. II GNAC, ahead of No. 6 Seattle Pacific, whose sole loss was to the Vikings…The Seattle University men resume play following a two-week break and host Simon Fraser on Saturday at 2:30 while the UW men are idle this weekend…Former Huskies Hope Solo and Tina (Frimpong) Ellertson are with the USWNT as it begins a three-match East Coast series with South Korea in Richmond. Solo is one of 10 finalists for FIFA World Player of the Year. An interview with Ellertson comes to next week.