After leaving the Sounders in 2011, Erik Friberg wandered the European soccer world, eager for a return to Seattle. The call came last summer. He stayed on — for a start at the beginning.
It has been a long time since midfielder Erik Friberg had a full preseason to prepare himself to play. The Swedish international was acquired by the Sounders in June, a deal he hoped to make happen since he left the team after his first stint in 2011. This time, Friberg and his family are fitting smoothly into life in the Northwest.
Even in 2012, when Friberg he left for Sweden’s Malmo FF, he had it in his head that he would like to return. A primary reason for his departure was he and his wife, Malin, wanted their children to be closer to grandparents for a few years.
From Malmo, Friberg jumped to the Italian Serie A with Bologna, and then to Esbjerg FB in Denmark. Always, he kept up with the Sounders, staying up late to watch their MLS matches.
“I watched the team back home and from Italy and Sweden and Denmark,” Friberg said Tuesday. “Wherever I was, I had contact with a couple of players and Chris Henderson every year, so I knew most of it. It’s kind of the same from when I was here.”
Not everything is the same, however. This season, he starts from the beginning.
When Friberg returned, he openly admitted that his fitness was not at mid-season levels, since the European season traditionally ends in May. Even coach Sigi Schmid said that Friberg’s fitness was at about 80 percent.
Despite his lack of conditioning, Seattle’s barren midfield meant that Friberg was forced into starting in his first game back in Rave Green. His form dipped as he transitioned from the couch to the turf at CenturyLink Field.
“That was a little bit weird,” said Friberg. “I think that it was good for me to get a full preseason now. It’s been about two years, because I’ve been jumping into the season everywhere.”
An offseason. Conditioning. Normalcy. For the 29-year-old Friberg, those concepts were becoming alien in Europe as he bounced from club to club and the “journeyman” label started to form.
In Seattle, he knows those concepts. They will come with starting minutes in the midfield, whatever formation the Sounders use.
Friberg is particularly excited to play in the CONCACAF Champions League, Seattle’s opening contest of the year at home against reigning champs Club America on Feb. 23.
Opening the knockout rounds of the tournament against the titleholder doesn’t spook Friberg. Seattle would either have to beat them sooner or later to win the show, so they might as well do it sooner.
Friberg still has a few years left in his legs. He wants spend them all in Seattle.
“I hope (to play here until I retire), but you never know in soccer,” he said. “I want to be here until I stop playing. But it’s not just up to me. I hope that that the team and everyone on the team wants me here for a long time.”
For now, Friberg is happy to have landed in Seattle. As he jets to Arizona with the team Thursday, he no longer has to stay up late, wondering about how to get back.
CONCACAF announced Wednesday that FOX Sports had acquired the English-language media rights to show the upcoming Copa America Centenario tournament in the U.S….U.S. Soccer announced the 20-woman roster for the USWNT’s Olympic qualifying tournament Tuesday. Veterans Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, and Carli Lloyd headlined the group, while notable omissions included Megan Rapinoe, who is still recovering from an ACL tear, and Sydney Leroux, who announced that she and Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer were expecting their first child, and that she would not play in the Olympics as a result.
Another notable inclusion is 17-year-old Mallory Pugh, the youngest player ever named to a U.S. women’s Olympic qualifying roster, who scored in her senior team debut against Ireland Saturday.
The U.S. will open Olympic qualifying group play against Costa Rica Feb. 10 at 5:30 p.m.