Sounders FC

Sounders stars Keller, Ljungberg open to having contracts extended

The all-star seasons of midfielder Freddie Ljungberg and goalkeeper Kasey Keller have Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer already thinking about extending the veteran players beyond their current two-year contracts.

“We’d love to have Kasey around longer than the two years,” Hanauer said this week. “And Freddie, the same thing. As long as they’re making us better on the field, and as long as they want to be here, I’m sure we’ll be able to work things out.”

Both players say they are open to the idea.

“I could easily see myself playing one more year past my contract, and then once again seeing from there,” Keller said Tuesday. “Obviously, Pat Onstad (Houston’s 41-year-old keeper, who faced Seattle last weekend) had a good game. He’s a couple of years older than me, and I can’t let him play longer than me. It all comes down to how I feel and how the club feels about me. I don’t want to have a big dip in form. I want to be sure I can continue to perform at the level that everyone expects of me and that I expect of myself.”

Before Ljungberg could even speculate on a contract extension, he felt the need to re-emphasize his commitment to playing out his current contract.

Ljungberg’s agent, Claes Elefalk of CAA of Sweden, confirmed reports in the international soccer press Tuesday that other clubs have inquired about signing Ljungberg.

“No. 1, the last few weeks myself and CAA have received plenty of requests and calls from top European teams asking about Freddie,” Elefalk said. “My second quote is that Freddie is aware of this, and he is not at all interested whatsoever. His only focus is to play in Seattle, and he will for sure play the entire contract out.”

Elefalk wouldn’t name the interested clubs but said that “all those teams know Freddie would not even look at anything else but Champions League teams.”

With that commitment made clear, Elefalk and Ljungberg said they welcome Hanauer’s interest in an extension.

“I’ve said that I want to stay in Seattle, and I’m happy here,” Ljungberg said Tuesday. “That could be an option – another (contract). That could be a possibility. I’m really happy here, and I love the city. That’s great news from Adrian.”

Both players had long and successful international careers before coming to MLS this season.

Keller, a 39-year-old native of Lacey, is considered among the top keepers the United States has produced. He has 102 appearances with the USA national team, and has played professionally in the top leagues of England, Spain and Germany.

Ljungberg, 32, has 14 goals in 75 appearances with the national team of Sweden, and he scored 72 goals in 328 matches with Arsenal of the English Premier League.

Ljungberg and Keller were named Monday to the MLS First XI, the first 11 members of the MLS all-star team as selected by fans, media, players, coaches and general mangers.

Ljungberg has two goals and five assists this season. Keller set an MLS record with 457 scoreless minutes to open the season, and he ranks third in the league in goals-against average (0.85), shutouts (five) and wins (seven).

Keller said his early success has helped him reconsider that he may have more productive seasons ahead.

“For the most part I feel really good,” he said. “And I don’t think we’ll have quite as long a (2010) preseason as we did the last time, and we’ll have a few more breaks with the World Cup. I see no reason why I can’t keep going.”

Added time

Coach Sigi Schmid returned to the team Tuesday after missing the Houston game while attending the wedding of his son Kurt, and missing Monday practice while attending a White House ceremony honoring the MLS champion Columbus Crew, where he coached last season. Schmid said both events went well. He seemed happy to have met President Barack Obama, and said he is arranging to have a Crew jersey signed by the president. … Chelsea and Seattle have agreed to an unlimited number of substitutions in their friendly match Saturday at Qwest Field. … About 1,500 tickets remain for that game.

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

blogs.thenewstribune.com/soccer

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