Thursday, August 19, 2010
Fire's Ljungberg quickly making impact
By Charlie Corr
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- It is relatively easy to jump on the Freddie Ljungberg bandwagon considering his immediate impact in only three matches with the Chicago Fire.
Ljungberg rapidly is becoming a welcome addition to the organization, and his most recent efforts helped Chicago top the New England Revolution, 2-1, on Wednesday. The 33-year-old designated player had a falling out with Seattle Sounders FC. But whatever went wrong on the west coast, Ljungberg appears to have found his stride already in Chicago.
Ljungberg's work rate, vision, offensive push and overall soccer experience were sorely needed. And the sense of admiration for the former Arsenal midfielder is evident in the locker room and on the pitch.
"He's got kind of a fiery personality, and it's good. It's what we need," Fire midfielder Peter Lowry said shortly after Ljungberg's arrival. "We kind of need a kick in the [butt]. I used to watch the old Arsenal teams on TV, and it was fun to watch him play. You try to learn from what he does and soak in as much as possible."
Wednesday was Ljungberg's most defining moment in the few games he has with Chicago. He had the initial attack that eventually turned into Baggio Husidic's game-tying goal. He had the assist for Calen Carr's game winning goal. And quite simply he was the clear-cut workhorse of everyone on the pitch.
"He's been great as far as talking to me on the side and helping me with some runs and what to look for," Carr said Wednesday. "And so I just try and move off him. On that play, it definitely paid off."
For much of this Fire season, the team's various lineups and formations have been regular topics of discussion. Having a player such as Ljungberg brings some flexibility into the attacking third.
"Freddie is not a forward, but he's a player that can shadow a striker," Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos said. "He's a player that any coach in the league would have wanted, and he is a player that can create a lot of situations. Although he's not a striker, he's a player that always gets to the box."
The Fire are preparing for back-to-back road matches, starting with the Houston Dynamo on Saturday. But without question the Fire's Aug. 28 match at Seattle's Qwest Field is one to circle on the calendar.
It will be another fitting barometer of Ljungberg's worth when he takes on his former squad in one of MLS's loudest venues.
Segares has modest return: Fire defender Gonzalo Segares returned to left defensive back on Wednesday, and for the most part he did pretty well in his first game back with the club since the 2009 season.
On the defensive side, Segares was relatively steady. New England's Sainey Nyassi was not much of a weapon offensively. The only glaring mishap from Segares came in the 73rd minute when Nyassi easily got past him into the offensive third. But Fire defender Wilman Conde deflected the ball out, and the subsequent corner kick resulted in a Shalrie Joseph header that went wide left of the goal.
The moments where Segares pushed up into the offensive third, there are some kinks that need to be worked out as far as the timing and communication. Part of it simply has to do with meshing with the new personnel.
There were sequences where Segares pushed up and no one was looking in his direction. There also was one sub-par moment where Segares elected to take a shot in the 47th minute, when the smarter option would have been to dish the ball off to Ljungberg who was making a direct run to the goal. Instead, Segares' shot sailed to the left of Ljungberg and left of the goal for a Revs goal kick.
But for a first game back, Segares looked comfortable out there.
"He's a great player and he has personality," De los Cobos said. "Like Nery [Castillo], he needs time to get used to it. But he did a great job."