TUKWILA, Wash. — First, it was Freddie Ljungberg. Then it was Erik Friberg. Now, Christian Sivebæk and Adam Johansson (above, right), welcome to the club.
With three Swedes and a Dane having all worn the Rave Green, the Seattle Sounders have had a distinctly Scandinavian feel about them as they enter their fourth year in MLS.
Chris Henderson likes what he can get from players from that area, and hopes to continue scouting the region.
“There are a lot of similarities with the leagues there,” the Sounders’ technical director said. “Just the attitude — the workman-like mentality. The language helps – there’s no language barrier. I think they just fit in real quick.”
Leagues in Denmark, Sweden and Norway have long been stepping stones for American players looking to showcase their talents for the bigger leagues in Europe. Only recently, however, has the movement started going the other way. The growing stature MLS enjoys on the world stage has made the league an increasingly viable option for younger European players such as Friberg and Sivebæk.
Friberg, who transferred back to Sweden in the offseason to raise a family, played 34 times in all competitions for Seattle in 2011, including 29 starts. His performances in MLS also got him into the national team picture, earning his first two caps for Sweden in wins against Qatar and Bahrain.
“I think we’ve had pretty good luck [with Scandinavian players],” Henderson added. “You look at Friberg now and he’s with the national team. We have good contacts and hope to maintain them.”
In Sivebæk’s case, a change in tactics left the 23-year-old Dane on the outs with Midtjylland, his former club. In MLS, Sivebæk hopes to get a lot of matches and continue to showcase himself – the mirror image of the American players who used to head to Scandinavia.
Earlier this season, Sivebæk told reporters he thought the Sounders would likely finish in the top six of the Danish league.
But it’s not just younger players looking to make strides in MLS. Johansson, 28, is looking to add to his trophy list after seven successful seasons with IFK Göteborg in the Allsvenskan league, and replicate the success Ljungberg had in Seattle before he left the team in 2010.
“I come from Gothenburg and they want to win every game, every competition,” Johansson said when asked about the expectations in Seattle. “That’s not new for me. I hope to come here and win a lot of titles.”