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Johansson Takes A Big Step

The new Sounders defender sees Seattle and MLS as an opportunity to challenge himself and continue to play for the Swedish National Team.

On Thursday, the Sounders FC made a move to shore up their defense by signing Swedish defender Adam Johansson.

Though they began scouting him in 2009, the club was on Johansson’s radar well before that.

When the Sounders signed Freddie Ljungberg in 2008, it drew the attention of players in Europe and, more specifically, in Sweden.

“Ljungberg drew the attention of Sweden and the reputation is growing every year,” Johansson said on a conference call on Friday.

The former designated player Ljungberg isn’t the only one who had an impact on Johansson’s decision to help shore up Seattle’s defense, as Erik Friberg showed Johansson around Seattle on his visit earlier this month and spoke very highly of the city, the club and the people.

And while the club’s history with players from Sweden played a role in his signing, Johansson is looking to have his own experience in Seattle as the club’s new right back.

“It’s a big step for me, coming to the United States. It’s a long way from home and it’s going to be a great experience,” he said.  “But I wouldn’t come if I didn’t find Seattle a great club and a club where I could win something.”

In Johansson, Seattle adds a 28-year-old veteran of seven seasons at IFK Goteborg in Sweden’s top flight Allvenskan.  He also has nine appearances for the Swedish National Team.

In addition to filling the hole at right back left by the departure of the steady starter for the last three years, James Riley, in the expansion draft, Johansson will also fill some of the leadership void left behind by the loss of goalkeeper and three-year captain Kasey Keller to retirement.  Johansson, 28, served as captain for Goteborg.

“To have a guy who was a captain of his team become available and he was at a good age, he was a player that we followed,” Sounders FC technical director Chris Henderson said.  “He’s a player who is tactically very smart.  He’s a leader in the back.  He has a good engine.  He crosses well.  He’s a solid player who tackles well and competes every time he plays.”

All of those characteristics fit well into head coach Sigi Schmid’s plan to utilize the outside backs more in the attack in 2012.  And for a team that led the league in scoring with 56 goals in 34 matches and finished second in the league standings, that can only mean a more explosive attack, particularly with the vast majority of their attacking force returning and the returns of Steve Zakuani and O’Brian White from injury.

Johansson will also be coming to MLS with a motivation to continue playing for Sweden.  With the European Championships coming up in June, he is now at an urgent time to impress coaches.  His chances, he says, are not at all hindered by playing in the American league.

“If I’m good enough, then I can be with the national team,” he said.

Johansson will join the Sounders in training camp in early February after he completes a ten-day camp with Sweden in Qatar that will see them play a friendly against the host country for the 2022 World Cup on January 22.

The Sounders will continue to build their roster in advance of their opening match of the 2012 year on March 7 against Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.