Erik Friberg had seen all that Sweden had to offer in his 24 years. In his six years with Vastra Forlunda and BK Hacken in Sweden he had been all over the country playing the game he loved.
However, he sought a new journey.
He hopes the Sounders FC can provide the vessel for that trip.
“I want an adventure,” he said as he readied for his first preseason in the US. “There haven’t been many Swedish players in the US.”
If it’s adventure he seeks, Seattle can more than deliver. In addition to the CONCACAF matches that could potentially take him all over North and Central America and the MLS schedule that will have him seeing some of the greatest cities in the US, he will also experience the rowdiest crowd that the US has to offer and a team on the field that has rewarded those fans two straight seasons with US Open Cup titles and MLS Cup playoff appearances.
“I’ve seen some games on TV and I like it. The fans in Seattle are fantastic and the stadium looks very nice,” he said.
Friberg comes to a Sounders FC team that ran into a problem in 2010 that didn’t exist much with the club in 2009 - injuries. Strengthening the team’s depth became a priority as they prepared for their third season in MLS.
In Friberg they add a player who can play as an outside midfielder on either side, but is most comfortable as a central midfielder. However, on first sight, he reminded head coach Sigi Schmid of a defender he coached with UCLA and the Columbus Crew.
“When I first saw him play on tape I thought of Frankie Hejduk. He constantly runs in games,” Schmid said, adding with a laugh, “He could probably use a pound or two more, but he’s quick and light on his feet.”
His tenacious energy, versatility and skill that saw him play a key role in elevating Hacken to Sweden’s top tier will force him onto the field, though Schmid isn’t sure yet what his role will be.
“Depending on injuries, openings and quality of play, he’s going to get a lot of minutes,” Schmid said. “I can’t tell you exactly where, but he’s going to get a lot of minutes.”
In Sweden, whose teams tend to focus on defense, Friberg learned to play a technical and tactical game. However, his hard-nosed nature and workmanlike effort make his highlight tapes stand out in Sweden’s top league.
How that will translate to MLS has yet to be seen, but Friberg is confident that he will be able to make the adjustments necessary to achieve success in America, though he’s not sure yet what those adjustments will need to be.
“I don’t know yet … we’ll see. Football is football,” he said. “So that’s the same.”
His excitement to get on the field has already sold Schmid.
“He’s anxiously looking forward to this. He made the commitment and he wants to be here,” Schmid said. “I think it’s great for our team to get a guy who was a starter in the Swedish first division to come to MLS.”
Friberg opened the 2011 preseason training with the Sounders today at Starfire. They will continue with a morning session on Wednesday before two days of testing at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Thursday and Friday. After a day off on Saturday, they leave for Casa Grande, Arizona as they embark on their third MLS season.