Ljungberg steals show in McBride, Brown farewell

Freddie Ljungberg

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Brian McBride and C.J. Brown ended their careers in style Saturday night, starting – and starring – in the Fire’s 4-1 win over Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center.

But the biggest accolades belonged to Freddie Ljungberg, who put forth his best performance in a Fire jersey in pulling the strings for Chicago. The Swedish Designated Player provided McBride with the perfect send-off in the 40th minute, with a low cross at the top of the six-yard box.

The retiring American legend – who wrapped a 17-year professional career – did the rest, sliding the ball inside the far post with a fantastic right-footed heel-flick. The goal, which came just 11 minutes before he was subbed off, was McBride’s 80th in MLS.

“Freddie just has this uncanny ability of finding people,” McBride told Fox Soccer Channel after the match. “I made a run near post and he found me. Thankfully, I put it in.”

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Brown, the final Fire original, played reasonably well in his farewell match. He didn’t score as many style points as McBride did, but the center back defended well and played with all of his usual intensity and passion in his 90 minutes of action.

McBride and Brown’s sendoff wouldn’t have been as sweet if it weren’t for Ljungberg – who played an absolutely brilliant match. The two-time World Cup veteran was incredibly dangerous Saturday night, registering numerous chances and scoring a good goal to go along with his assist.

In the 47th minute, winger Marco Pappa found Ljungberg just to the left of the penalty spot with a low cross from the left wing, freeing the ex-Seattle Sounder to slot a left-footed shot inside the far post with his first touch for a 2-0 lead.

The Swede came close to adding to his total on several other occasions, none more notable than a magnificent 57th-minute run along the end line. The former Arsenal star collected a long ball on the right flank and cut into the box, hurdling three defenders before nearly picking out the far post with a cheeky right-footed effort.

Calen Carr and Baggio Husidic added cappers on a night that was overwhelmingly positive. The Fire played a good game, got a big win and can head into the offseason – which, for the second year in a row, figures to bring big changes to the team – on a positive note.

“It was a great day all around,” McBride said. “We came out and played a good game. … The fact that we were able to win our last game [is great]. We’ll enjoy tonight.”

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