Sounders newcomer Gustav Svensson is looking forward to the more physical style of play in MLS after spending most of his career in Sweden and lately, China, before joining Seattle two weeks ago.
Gustav Svensson is still in his first week acclimating to Seattle, but likes what he sees of the city so far. Parts of it remind him of his native Sweden and he’s excited about the chance to experience American culture for the first time as well.
Something else he’s looking forward to experiencing more of is the physical style of Major League Soccer play. Svensson, who turned 30 last week, developed a penchant for throwing his weight around during a decade of professional play in Europe and most recently, the Chinese Super League. But it’s here in MLS where the 6-foot, 176-pound defensive midfielder feels his style of play may truly find a home.
“I’ve heard that it was pretty physical and it is,” Svennson said following the team’s Monday workout at the Starfire Spors Complex in Tukwila. “It’s pretty much more than the other leagues that I’ve played in. But I like that. I mean, I’m a physical player.”
Svensson said he relishes playing the ball and securing posession of it. In fact, he’s used to games where teams enjoy more posession and hopes that’s something he can add a bit more of.
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“I like that it’s physical,” he said. “I like to hit some players. I like to tackle them.”
The Sounders are counting on Svensson to solidify their midfield depth and give them options as Osvaldo Alonso is brought back slowly from a knee injury. They grabbed him up two weeks ago as the Chinese league goes about purging teams of foreign players in order to meet new restrictive quotas on how many can be carried per squad.
Svensson had been eager to give MLS a try. He senses there’s greater depth on the rosters here than in China beyond the top stars.
“The Chinese, they want to learn a lot,” Svensson said. “They do a lot of training, both tactical and individual training trying to learn from foreigners coming there. So, it’s growing. It’s a little bit different because you have very good foreigners and then you have — the rest. There’s a big gap. So, it’s different soccer but it’s good because of the number of good players around the league.”
Svensson played the bulk of his career in Sweden from 2006-2010 with his hometown IFK Goteborg squad, where he returned in 2014 and 2015. In between, he played in Turkey and Ukraine before joining Guangzhou R&F in China last season and starting all 28 games he appeared in.
The Sounders hope some of his pro experience rubs off on emerging young talents. He joined the team in Tucson, Ariz. and has been paired with Cristian Roldan in the center midfield the team’s first two pre-season games.
“He’s a good technical player,” Svensson said. “He runs a lot. He wants to do a lot. He contributes a lot in the game. We have some problems, though, sometimes playing in the same position. We come down, both of us, a little too deep sometimes. But he’s a good player. He listens a lot. He wants to learn. He’s a young player, but of good quality.”
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said Svensson is a “smart” player and “a big guy, he’s strong. Has a good physical presence.”
Schemetzer said he’s keeping an open mind on how he’ll use the versatile veteran.
“Look, we played Erik Friberg at the No. 10 (forward spot on the field),” Schmetzer said. “Which was not his true position. But at certain moments, it worked for us. We always like to keep an open mind. He (Svensson) is a good soccer player. He’s a smart soccer player. So, wherever we can fit him in and whatever our needs are, I think he’s a team player and that will help me.”
CORNER KICKS: Chad Marshall, who rejoined the team Sunday after training with the U.S. Men’s National Team, figures opponents will be coming for the Sounders extra hard this season because of their defending champion status.
“I’m sure we’re going to be getting everyone’s best this year,” said Marshall, who won a previous MLS Cup with Columbus in 2008, a game in which he scored the winning goal. “It’s going to be tough. Hopefully, we can prevail.”
…Schmetzer announced that he will be taking Sounders academy players Sam Rogers and Jake Morris, both 17, with the team Thursday to Charleston, SC for a series of exhibition games.
“We’ll get the young guys out there and see if they’re up to it,” he said.