TUKWILA, Wash. – It’s looking more and more likely that Seattle Sounders FC and absentee Freddie Ljungberg are headed for divorce. As the squad took the practice field Tuesday morning, Seattle’s first designated player was nowhere to be found.
Seattle coach Sigi Schmid confirmed Tuesday that his star player is “exploring options,” the first public acknowledgment by the club of what had long been suspected.
“Ljungberg is still [dealing] with the ankle but also, at this point, he is exploring options,” Schmid said. “So we’ll see how things proceed in the next three, four, five days.”
The Swedish star last played in Seattle’s July 4 defeat at Los Angeles. He was replaced in the starting lineup a week later against FC Dallas by teenager Miguel Montano.
According to the club, Ljungberg was held out of the game due to a left ankle injury. He was with the team for training on July 13, but didn’t travel for the game at D.C. United two days later and was granted the weekend off.
It’s unclear where Ljungberg might be headed. His contract with Seattle ends in November, meaning that as of June, he was free to negotiate with other clubs as per FIFA regulations. The club is not ruling out a return, although it seems unlikely given recent events.
Technical Director Chris Henderson told the Tacoma News Tribune that letting Ljungberg depart could free up a designated player spot, which could be extremely valuable for Seattle.
"I think he can look at his options overseas, options within the league," Henderson told the newspaper. "Potentially the club could get a DP spot open, get salary relief. It opens a lot of doors for us. That right there is a big reason.”
Schmid did not want to speculate on the events that led to the acrimonious relationship between the organization and its star player. He did say that earlier in the season, the ownership group put the entire organization (including Schmid) on notice after the team's rough start.
"It was a situation where they weren't really willing to make commitments going into the following season at this point,” Schmid said, “and I think that was primary reason for a player like him, with his pedigree and at his age, to say, 'Hey, I got to start looking at some options to see exactly where I'll be next year.’”