Daily Herald
Ljungberg looks to provide Fire's offense a little spark
By Orrin Schwarz | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 8/11/2010 4:48 PM

Freddie Ljungberg doesn't know what ailed the Fire the first half of this season, and he doesn't seem to care. There's nothing he or anyone else can do about it now.

Ljungberg just wants to see the team do well in the 14 regular-season games it has left.

"I know what Carlos wants me to do," Ljungberg said after Wednesday's practice. "They want to try to play some good football on the floor and some nice entertaining football for the fans. They want me to help with that, and hopefully I can add a bit of knowledge with that and try to help them."

Sunday's 0-0 draw against New York was a start in that direction. Ljungberg looked strong on the ball, nearly threading some passes to teammates in dangerous spots and drawing two yellow cards against Red Bulls defenders with his darting runs. He's 33, but retirement can wait.

The Fire (5-5-6, 21 points) had a rough second half Sunday (outshot 16-2), but there's room for encouragement, starting with Ljungberg and other new faces. With him and Nery Castillo in the lineup and working cohesively with teammates, the Fire's offensive woes could be solved.

"Some of the players have told me that sometimes they have problems to connect the passes and there have not been a lot of passes to defend sometimes," Ljungberg said. "They want to work on getting more touches on the ball and keeping the ball better, and that's what I try to do."

The reacquired Gonzalo Segares should help the back line, whether he plays on the left side, where Fire fans are used to seeing him, or the middle, where he played for the Costa Rican national team. Then there's rookie goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who's been brilliant since taking the starter's job from Andrew Dykstra.

"It always takes time to learn to know your teammates, but I felt great on the weekend and I think they're great players. I don't think that's going to be an issue at all," Ljungberg added. "Of course small things like when to time a run will take a little time, but I think that's normal."

Fortunately, the Fire has a little extra time to get to know Ljungberg and let Castillo and Segares improve their fitness; the team doesn't play until the Aug. 18 game against New England at Toyota Park.

But the team needs to make its move soon. As the standings are now, the Fire would be left out of the playoffs for the second time in its history.

No more moves? The international transfer window closes Sunday, though the Fire can still make moves within MLS until Sept. 15. The Fire looks like it's probably done toying with the roster.

"We're happy right now," Fire technical director Frank Klopas said. "Unless an opportunity comes about where we feel that it's an area that we can try to strengthen the team and improve. We're definitely looking at all the options."

The Pitch: Fire technical director Frank Klopas is an investor in a new soccer-themed sports bar, The Pitch, which opens Thursday in Chicago.

It seems like a natural for Klopas, who grew up in the city, played for both the Sting and the Fire, and is as associated with Chicago soccer as anyone.

"It just kind of happened quick and the place is all set up," Klopas said of the Clybourn Avenue establishment. "It will be great. We're going to show every game in the world. ... I'm pretty excited."