CARSON CA - (FILE) Freddie Ljungberg #8 of the Chicago Fire paces the ball during the MLS match against Chivas USA on October 23 2010 in Carson California. Ljunberg 33 has December 31 2010 joined Scottish Premier League side Celtic until May 2011. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
It’s now official. Freddie Ljungberg will not be a part of the Chicago Fire next season. Okay, technically it’s not 100% certain. He could come over after Celtic’s season is over, but let’s face it. Freddie is now gone, and we are on our own. I know a lot of you are worried. He was voted by all of you as the player you’d most like to protect in the recent expansion draft. Whether it was his playing ability, the heart he played with or his dramatic flair, Chicago Fire fans took quite a liking to Mr. Ljungberg.
Learn why Freddie's move might be a plus for us, after the break...
First off, the most important upside of Freddie leaving is that we don’t lose our first round draft pick now. That was part of the deal when we picked up Freddie. If he re-signed with us, we had to give up our first round draft pick to Seattle. Since he didn’t stick with us, Seattle gets our 27th pick of the draft instead. That makes for a bit of a silver lining in the whole situation. We’re going to be a young, unproven team next year, and that would be the case regardless of what Freddie decided to do. Now we can add to that youth with our first round pick in the draft, which falls in the 9th slot. We can use this for trade bait as well, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be used on collegiate talent.
What do we really lose though in giving up Ljungberg? In a matter of 1200 minutes with us, he put two in the back of the net, as well as being responsible for 7 assists. He took 11 shots, and put 5 of them on goal. Respectable numbers for sure, given that he’d only spent half the season with us. In my mind, two players are up for his position: Baggio Husidic and Corben Bone. As I’ve mentioned previously, these two have combined for less minutes in their career than Ljungberg played last season alone. That being said, Husidic has been effective in the limited minutes he’s played. Over the span of 1498 minutes last season he scored 5 goals while racking up 3 assists as well. I’m not saying Baggio is as good as Freddie, because Freddie brings you a lot of intangibles and more knowledge of the game. I am saying that you can get similar production from Baggio.
If we had a true striker last season, playing in their prime, how many more goals would we have netted last season? I imagine Ljungberg could have racked up a number of more assists, had we had solid production from our front men last season. Our forwards underperformed greatly, and now we simply don’t have forwards. Right now the only players you can consider as strikers are Patrick Nyarko, who normally ends up out on a wing, and Calen Carr. I really like Carr up top, as long as he has someone up there with him. Nyarko, with his speed, just seems such a better fit out on the wing. What does this have to do with Freddie? Well, now that we’ve offloaded his salary, we can afford a true striker.
Part of the reason I was excited about the prospect of Nery Castillo last season, was that in the past he’s had a nose for goal. I think Freddie was a great addition, but at the same time our midfield was our strongest aspect already. We had a strong core playing in the middle, and I don’t think Freddie gave us that much more than what we already had. Did he make us better? I suppose you could argue that he did, but my point is that his impact was completely dwarfed by inept play by the strikers. I love Brian McBride as much as the next guy, but he wasn’t healthy all season. Carr’s 3 goals in just over 500 minutes though, gives me some excitement for next season. I would have love to see him up top more last season, especially paired with a true target man.
So, we lost Freddie. We still have a strong core in the midfield, with youth to build upon. We get a first round draft pick that we’ll likely use to bolster our young back line. If we don’t want to go that route though, we can always use that pick for trade leverage. We have more money to work with to splash on a big name player, or to pick up a couple of players. If we can snag a solid striker or two, and bolster that back line of ours, we really could make a decent run next season. At the end of the day, in Klopas we trust. As such, Freddie’s move was addition by subtraction.