MLS Soccer

Sounders midfielder praised from both directions

Sounder’s Erik Friberg heads the ball above a Timbers player at CenturyLink Field last year.
Sounder’s Erik Friberg heads the ball above a Timbers player at CenturyLink Field last year. Staff file, 2015

Erik Friberg returned to the Seattle Sounders midfield last weekend and drew praise from both ends of the pitch.

From up top, forward Clint Dempsey was impressed.

“We had a little eye contact,” Dempsey said of Friberg’s assist of his opening goal. “I was pointing with my hand to go back. … He was able to find me. That comes with confidence that comes with being in more of a rhythm and us winning games.”

From down below, central defender Brad Evans also had good things to say.

“Always enjoy having him in front of me, playing with him in the midfield,” Evans said. “He’s always readily available, and he’s always, always looking forward. He just sees the game different than most. He’s a box-to-box kind of midfielder. … He found a lot of space and a lot of high-quality passes skipping through the line. Yeah, just a very good player.”

Friberg was asked about the comments from his teammates.

“Of course it’s good when people think you played a good game,” Friberg said. “I think we had a good game Saturday. We created a lot of chances. We should probably have scored the second goal a little bit earlier — get a little bit nervous in the end. I think we can do things better, but we had a good game, and hopefully we can have a good game Saturday, too.”

That’s when the Sounders (4-4-1) will return to the pitch at FC Dallas (6-4-2). Friberg is expected to be back in the starting lineup, which has been a rare enough thing in what started as an injury-plagued season.

Friberg missed MLS opening day while going through concussion protocol from a hit in the head suffered against Club America in CONCACAF Champions League play. He returned the next week but strained a knee ligament in that match at Real Salt Lake. The 2-0 victory over San Jose last weekend marked his first appearance in the starting lineup since.

He said the return wasn’t difficult.

“It’s the same guys around me from last season, almost,” he said. “So it’s not that different. I feel comfortable out there.”

The team flew to Texas on Thursday and will train there Friday. First kick is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

“Friberg helps,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “That’s one of the qualities that he has is to see those passes. Certainly the time he was injured we certainly missed that. Everybody has a little bit different strengths, a little bit different qualities, but that is certainly one of his qualities.”