Fire's Ljungberg makes Seattle return

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Nearly a month has passed since midfielder Freddie Ljungberg bid adieu to Seattle Sounders FC and welcomed the Chicago Fire with open arms.

Ljungberg returns to his former Seattle stomping grounds this Saturday when the Fire take on the Sounders at Qwest Field.

Qwest draws MLS's largest fan attendance and plays in one of the loudest venues the league has to offer. Ljungberg could hear a much different tone than he was used to earlier this season and last year when he played in his first MLS campaign with Seattle.

"In the stands you'll probably get some cheers and some boos," the Sweden native said. "That's probably what it's like. Back home, wherever you went you got booed everywhere. It just makes you want to play more. So it's not a problem."

The irony of this trip is that Seattle has been on a tear of late without Ljungberg. The Sounders (8-8-5) are in the midst of a six-match unbeaten streak (4-0-2). Chicago (6-6-6) is looking to shake of a 4-3 loss to the Houston Dynamo that included a horrendous first half, followed by an improved second half.

"The second half, I think we played extremely well," Ljungberg said. "That's probably the best we've played since I've been here. We controlled the game totally."

Seattle is not as invincible as last year at Qwest, but the Sounders still have a respectable 5-4-2 mark on their home turf.

"I'm never happy when I have to play on turf," Fire defender Gonzalo Segares said. "It's completely different. You cannot play soccer over there. They're really used to that field, so they use that to their advantage. We've just got to go there and get motivated. If we play as well as the little moments we had in Houston [in the second half], where we created a lot of chances, I think we can come out of there with points."

The timing of Segares' recent return is a benefit this weekend because Chicago has to play without defender Wilman Conde, who is out because of yellow card accumulation. That gives the Fire options to either go with Segares inside for Conde's spot and Krzysztof Krol on the left, or allows for Segares to stay at left back Krol or Kwame Watson-Siriboe in the middle.

Though Chicago came up short in set-piece situations the last time around, the Fire defense appears to have enough reinforcements to overcome Conde's absence now that Segares is in the fold again.

"You almost sit there and say, 'why did he ever leave?'" Fire center defensive back C.J. Brown said. "I'm happy with it. He's a good guy, good player. He stays focused. It's been an easy transition to have him come back."

Right defensive back Dasan Robinson is out with a hamstring injury, so rookie Steven Kinney should get the nod in the starting lineup.

Fire designated player Nery Castillo did not travel, as he has been held back to work on his fitness. While some could argue that an in-game setting is invaluable toward assisting Castillo's fitness, the few moments he has been utilized in games have had a negative effect on the flow of his position.

On Friday, the Fire released forward Stefan Dimitrov. Dimitrov did not contribute much this season. He played in portions of five MLS matches and logged only 67 minutes.