About to turn 31, Erik Friberg came back to the Seattle Sounders to help them finish business, and they did. In 2016 he was almost entirely a central midfielder, playing in the glamorous role as a number eight the most often. The two-time Sounder did not have his option picked up and is now with BK Häcken in Sweden, another club he had a previously served.
The ranking is based on several hundred Sounder at Heart readers’ votes. Realio rated every single MLS regular season and playoff game as well as the two CONCACAF Champions League matches. He did not rate USL or USOC play.
Erik Friberg 2016
A teammate knows that Erik will always be there to relieve pressure. He regularly manages to be open and available to accept a pass, no matter the opposing team’s defense. Friberg is a decent, if usually conventional, passer. His play is tidy, lacking verve. It is rare for Friberg to get in shooting positions. His power and control is league average. Not an effective contributor in dead ball situations.
Some players defend through hard tackles. Others rush about annoying poor passers. There’s also the guys that never let someone beat them on the dribble. Erik is none of those, yet he’s a good defender. If there were “secondary interceptions” that would be Friberg’s defensive stat. He was regularly in the spaces that an attack wants to use later. He blocks the next pass, not the one coming up. It’s subtle, boring and quite often off your TV screen. A team with Friberg on it is better than one without it.
Friberg is not nimble, nor fast. He doesn’t often go into tackles with heavy feet, nor use his shoulders to knock someone done. He does have a bit of a temper, and then when crossed will be vengeful, but not in a way that hurts people.
Erik Friberg is one of those guys who you may not appreciate until he is gone; then you wonder how you are going to replace all the little things this dude did. Bringing back the Swede in 2015 turned out to be very beneficial to Seattle, finding a guy able to play a variety of midfield roles, capable of starting or coming in as a sub, and able to fit in the locker room smoothly. That being said, his overall rating dropped some from 2015, earning a cumulative 6.219 over 32 appearances.
Most of what Friberg did in 2016 was “solid but unspectacular”, including an MLS average 6 rating during CCL and slightly increased 6.33 for coach Sigi Schmid in 15 regular season appearances. Coach Schmetzer also used him frequently (10 times) but his ratings from me dipped to a still solid average 6 rating during these matches. In the playoffs Erik brought his scores right back up, earning a 6.4 score while seeing time in all but one playoff game.
One thing that will be missed is Friberg’s consistency, scoring MLS Average on 70% of the games he featured in. He also only had 3 matches where I scored him with a 5 (his low on the year) offset by a masterful 9 rating in a win against San Jose in May. This steadying midfield presence wasn’t what was needed to rescue a rough first half for SSFC, but was definitely a comfort to coach Schmetzer knowing exactly what he could expect from Friberg no matter where he played him as the team rounded into form.
I have always been a big fan of what Erik does, and am a bit bummed that he left in the offseason. There is always a necessity for the glue guy who can eat minutes and play mistake-free, smart soccer. These players aren’t always getting the stats, but they are essential to allow the Lodeiros of the team to excel, usually by strong positioning and a willingness to do the little things that don’t show up on most people’s radar. I will miss that part of his game, as well as his quiet intensity. And that shot against LAG.
Best Case 2017:
A starting role with Hacken, where he will again be loved by fans.
Goodbye tacos, you’ll be missed.