Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller and midfielder Freddie Ljungberg were named Monday to the Major League Soccer All-Star team, reinforcing general manager Adrian Hanauer’s assessment that the two high-profile signings have worked out even better than the club expected.
“I couldn’t imagine them exceeding our expectations any more than they have,” Hanauer said. “Kasey’s been an absolute rock in the back. He’s probably gained us four, five, six points throughout the year. … Freddie, we never imagined that we’d see huge numbers statistically out of Freddie. But he controls the pace of the game, his explosiveness and speed are coming back. He can’t be knocked off the ball very easily. He’s probably our best passer on the team. He makes connections, he controls the pace and the attack up there.”
Ljungberg has two goals and five assists.
“We don’t have, like, all-star games and stuff back in Europe, but it’s a nice thing,” Ljungberg said. “It’s an honor. It will be fun.”
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The MLS All-Star First XI is made up of one goalkeeper, three defenders, five midfielders and two forwards. They were selected through balloting by fans, media, players and MLS coaches and general managers.
The actual starting lineup of the team that will meet Everton of the English Premier League on July 29 in Sandy, Utah, will be left to Dominic Kinnear, who will coach the team by virtue of his Houston Dynamo’s leading position atop the MLS standings.
Other members of the First XI are defenders Geoff Cameron (Houston), Wilman Conde (Chicago) and Chad Marshall (Columbus); midfielders Dwayne De Rosario (Toronto), Stuart Holden, Shalrie Joseph (New England) and Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Columbus); and forwards Conor Casey (Colorado) and Landon Donovan (Los Angeles).
The First XI has seven first-time all-stars. It represents seven countries and eight of MLS’ 15 teams. Seattle, Houston and defending champion Columbus are the only clubs represented by two players.
Ljungberg, who spent more than a decade in the English Premier League and has 75 appearances with the Sweden national team, came to MLS on Oct. 28 as the Sounders’ designated player – a high-profile player whose full salary doesn’t count against the team’s salary cap.
Keller, a native of Lacey, was signed Aug. 14 as a free agent after he play in three top European leagues and made 102 appearances with the U.S. national team.
He started his MLS career by setting a league record for longest shutout streak to start a season: 457 minutes. He has a 7-1-7 record, and that lone loss is fewest among MLS goalkeepers appearing in 10 or more games. He ranks third in wins, goals-against average (0.85) and shutouts (five).
“Kasey was almost a shoo-in,” said top assistant Brian Schmetzer, who continued to lead the team through training Monday in coach Sigi Schmid’s absence. “… I know (Chivas USA’s) Zach Thornton has had a tremendous year, and you can’t take anything away from him; (and Houston’s Pat) Onstad had a couple of good saves Saturday. But Kasey has been such a tremendous influence on an expansion team, and just helping this team get to where we’re at, it’s a no-brainer to me. And then Ljungberg, anybody that knows anything about soccer understands what a dynamic player he can be. We’re just hoping he gets acclimated to being kicked all the time and can stay healthy.”
The remainder of the MLS All-Star roster will be named next week. The team will meet Everton at 6:30 p.m. July 29 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, home of Real Salt Lake. The game will be shown on ESPN.
Schmid was scheduled to return Monday night after touring the White House as part of a celebration for MLS champion Columbus, the team he coached last season. … The Sounders reserves beat the Kitsap Pumas of the USL Premier Development League, 6-0, Monday at Starfire Sports Complex. …
Fewer that 1,800 seats remain for the Sounders-Chelsea friendly at noon Saturday at Qwest Field. Also, a limited number of bleacher seats remain for the U.S. Open Cup semifinal against Houston on July 11 at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila; and fewer than 2,000 remain for FC Barcelona’s visit to Qwest on Aug. 5.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808
The Sounders will play host to one of the world’s most famous soccer clubs as Chelsea comes to Seattle.
Chelsea at Sounders FC, noon Saturday, Qwest Field, ESPN2