Top Stories

Ljungberg and Nowak continue war of words

Freddie Ljungberg (

Photo by

Peter Nowak's public criticism of Freddie Ljungberg after last week's 2-0 loss by Nowak's Philadelphia Union against Ljungberg's Sounders figured to cause a stir, but the lingering bad blood fostered by those comments and Ljungberg's response has led to an on-going war of words.

On one side you have Ljungberg, who criticized what he thought was over-the-top physical play by Philadelphia. On the other side you have Nowak, who accused Ljungberg of diving and trying to influence referees with play-acting.

Nowak went right after Ljungberg after the match with some scathing comments. Ljungberg then wrote on his blog about the injury to his back he blamed on a hard first-half foul. Ljungberg then followed up by calling Nowak's comments "low" and "pathetic".

Here is a video of the play in question, a first-half sequence that left Ljungberg on the ground and rookie Toni Stahl facing the first of two yellow cards he would receive on the night:

The video doesn't show much contact, if any, but Ljungberg hits the ground hard and gets up holding his lower back (there is a point where Stahl's leg goes behind Ljungberg where contact could occurred). Ljungberg has been reportedly receiving treatment on his back ever since and is questionable for Saturday's match vs. the Red Bulls.

So who is right and who is wrong? The truth lies somewhere in the middle if you ask me. Philadelphia certainly played a physical match with several indefensible tackles (including one UFC-style tackle by David Myrie), but Ljungberg has made a habit of diving and complaining to referees since arriving in MLS last year. That said, it would seem like a stretch to think that Ljungberg and the Sounders have concocted an entire charade to pretend Ljungberg was injured (though some Philly fans might argue he could have hurt himself throwing himself to the Qwest Field turf).

Who do you think is right in this war of words? Cast your vote here:

What do you think of the video? Starting to wonder if Ljungberg was injured by a foul, or do you see contact? Think Nowak was out of line for criticizing Ljungberg, or was there truth in Nowak's words?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Ljungberg was fouled. I was there at about midline and could see both Stahl fouls, both cheap and dirty in lieu of real soccer. The second one was so blatant that it alone warranted a red sending off. Who is the idiot–he deserves to be down in the minors, for good. Now the DC game, that was more like it–Our LeToux did it all, Oh watch Moreno for diving,

  2. I would agree in many cases Ljungberg probably does dive, but just because he has done it before DOES NOT MEAN EVERY TIME HE IS DIVING! Seriously Ljungberg was pretty much invisible after that foul.

    And the fact is that He had to go to the emergency room and get an MRI. You could tell he really didn’t play at all after that hit. He was barely running around and didn’t get very involved. In my opinion, even though he may be correct in general Nowak needs to grow up. He’s being just as childish and petty as he claims Ljungberg of being.

    Ljungberg’s injury is similar to one players get from “spearing” in american football, where someone hits them directly with their helmet. If you take the replay of the hit by itself I would agree that it kind of looks like he dived. I may be a Sounders fan but I would be the first one to admit Montero did some major diving last year and Ljungberg complained a lot.

    Also, there is no reason to keep this stupid “arguement” going. Do you mean to talk about it for the whole season and complain? Nowak sure seems like he might. Show some class and keep the finger pointed at yourself Nowak. Your just as at fault as your players. You can tell HE WASN’T THE SAME after that tackle.

    (On how his lower back injury feels . . .)

    “I don’t feel great. Of course I had a kick in my lower spine and it is still swollen. We have x-rays and MRI’s on it and there are fluids in the spine and it affects the nerves a little bit. When I try to walk up stairs, my leg buckles and that was the same problem in the game. I couldn’t push on my right leg. It’s getting better and, according to the doctors, if we can get the fluid away I can play.”

    quote from ->

  3. I think Nowak needs to get used to losing and not be so quick to find excuses for his fledgling team’s performance.

  4. When a player slides in head on and doesn’t get the ball yes, that’s taking player’s legs out. Even when he only slightly gets the players legs he is disrupting the play. When a guy comes flying in behind clumsily without enough control to not run a player over and he’s not playing the ball yes, that’s a push from behind.

    When a guy touches the ball past the defense and is slid into and run over yeah, that’s a foul. And when a player is struggling to avoid such “tackles,” he is going to be off balance and go down easily. Two defensive guys were unable to play the ball and took Freddie out of the play.

    I just think it gets old when people wanna complain about the offensive players all the time when the defensive guys play out of control.

    And no, not particularly a Seattle fan

  5. To me it looks like Lundberg started his act of hurting before even hit the ground. Not to say that Stahl’s touch of him caused his injury. I think he is a big phony. But he’s just doing what alot of soccer players do and that is play the ref for a foul when there is none. Somehow soccer needs to make these phonies pay for their actions. Perhaps handing out yellow cards to them after reviewing the game videos. I am a huge soccer fan but all these whimps falling when there is no foul is really annoying. It hurts the game.

  6. I have no idea what you all are looking at. You can very clearly see the point where he kneed Ljungberg directly on his tailbone (which is where the injury occurred.) The swelling is pinched nervous which is why he’s had trouble running and came out of the game.

    Nowak is a dimwitted liar who is making excuses for poor management. Nothing more.

    I will acknowledge Montero clearly dives or goes down easily, that has never been a knock on Ljungberg. He’s simply fouled hard and often.

  7. @Joe from Philly: My point is that he didn’t land on his “bum.” He landed on his front-side and ended up with a bruised butt. Ergo, there was significant contact from behind.

  8. yeah, he went to the ER just to prove a point… good logic spike.

    let me knee you in the tailbone and i will watch you dive.

  9. Seemed to me Philadelphia initiated it with the hacking and then Ljungberg and Seattle responded with the falling down and whining. It’s the age-old defenders playing dirty with skilled players and then skilled players having to defend themselves by exaggerating because the refs are only calling things when the player falls. Not sure what the solution is. Philly=thugs. Seattle=whiners ha

  10. By nature a fan of a team is biased, no-one needs to “open their eyes”.

    An, too be honest, are you even making a point? Or just in the mood for making some random, non-relevant, generalizations. You hit the mark on that if it was your goal.

  11. “hey, an intense seattle/philly rivalry is a good thing for the league.”

    You wish.. The Union will be so humbled by mid season Kojac will be asking Bora for an assistant job.

  12. And a beautiful bride Seattle is.

    I should have been more clear that it wasn’t this specific call I was defending (though I realize that’s what this thread is about).

    I don’t think Jessie saw the match because, despite being blinded by my love for the team, the city, the region, the Union played a brutally physical match throughout and if Stahl didn’t deserve a yellow card on that call, every other card the Union got were well-deserved, and it should have received evn more. Even a blind man could see that.

    And Llundberg is a crybaby of a soccer player, but he’s a very very good player, so I’m glad he’s on the team I support.

    I kind of agree with you on the specifics of this call: if Llundberg got hurt BECAUSE he embellished, and not because he got kneed in the back, then he got what he deserved.

  13. i had no idea how much seattle fans loved to whine about poor ole freddie and hate on nowak for his success in the league. some biased seattle fans need to open their eyes and not be blinded by their undying support and acknowledge the fact that hey, an intense seattle/philly rivalry is a good thing for the league.

  14. I don’t like diving period. I don’t like it from Jozy either.

    There is a grey area though. If you get fouled do you have to make the 110% effort to stumble and stay on your feet in order to not be considered a diver. I’ve been fouled late in a game where I have been tired and I didn’t go through the extraordinary effort to hold myself up. I got the foul call, rightfully so it was a foul. Does that make me a diver?

  15. Yes, I don’t see contact between Stahl and Freddie that indicate the injury was a result of knee in the back. It could have been an elbow, or just the impact. But, the foul caused the injury (at least at appeared that way from my observation of Freddie’s mobility after that point).

    Again my main point is that yellow is a result of Salazar’s game management, not necessarily the severity of that single incident. Stahl was playing the player, not the ball, and playing from behind. So he racks up the yellow. Seems like a perfectly reasonable decision by the ref.

  16. not as funny as how apoplectic the English media gets when a foreign player dives, in comparison to how silent they are when someone like Gerrard does the same thing.

  17. I’m with you with that crap happening to me all the time in rec league and it gets really frustrating. I can imagine with the bigger and faster players in MLS for FL it is down right discouraging.

  18. Who are you to dictate that this is about one play? That makes zero sense. You can’t have a conversation about a player diving on a particular play and ignore the fact that some people might consider that the player in question has been known to flop on occasion.

    If it was Drogba would you make the same bold statement, it is only this instance we are talking about and you must ignore all other instances of Drogba diving?

  19. I agree with the Drogba and Gerrard being divers, its a little harsh for Rooney and Torres. IMO, those two guys really battle to stay on their feet.

    Don’t forget Altidore, he is starting to take it to an art form. I really wish he would try and stay on his feet more!

  20. “Stahl is already playing through Freddie, his leading leg is through Freddie’s legs from behind, by the time Myrie’s behind the ball slide comes in, by the time Myrie’s behind the ball slide comes in.”

    I can agree with that but if you watch the clip it looks like Stahl’s leading leg goes through the lower leg of Freddie not into his back or even his tailbone. It looks more to me like the back injury was due to an elbow in the back not because of a knee. Either way you’re right they were both clumsy, out of position and disorganized. The whole backline played that way all night.

  21. No, fouling and diving are not a causal relationship.

    Diving is a choice by the player in an effort to deceive. It is euphemistically called Simulation by the rules when it should simply be called CHEATING.

  22. Funny how people calls it “Drawing Fouls” when Jozy Altidore does it but call it “Diving” when anybody else does.

  23. “but that looks like it is more a result of Stahl being out of control because of Myrie’s terrible challenge. From what I can see Myrie’s challenge takes out Stahl who then hits Freddie”

    Stahl is already playing through Freddie, his leading leg is through Freddie’s legs from behind, by the time Myrie’s behind the ball slide comes in. Myrie was late, Stahl was playing from behind. They were both clumsy.

  24. Freddie is a prima donna who along with the skill he brings, also brings the least desirable apsect of international soccer, diving. Nowak is being more than a little disingenuous here. Perhaps Freddie did play it up, but that would ignore the red cards Philly earned at a record pace in the pre-season. Nowak preaches thug soccer and now gets to live with the result.

  25. Yes I’m a Union fan. No I didn’t appreciate our thuggish play. You can see multiple angles of the tackle in the following video:

    After the 3:00 minute mark or so (the SoundersFC video doesn’t display time markers so I can’t give you an exact time). You will see the first angle that Ives shows and a shot from the opposite angle. After looking at that I do not believe Stahl ever got a knee into Freddie’s back. His knee doesn’t even appear to get his tailbone in the second shot. Now it does look like Freddie might have taken an elbow but that looks like it is more a result of Stahl being out of control because of Myrie’s terrible challenge. From what I can see Myrie’s challenge takes out Stahl who then hits Freddie. Oh yeah and it looks like he is already going down from minimal to no contact.

    You can also watch Myrie’s flying tackle in there…I cringed when I saw that and was hoping he’d be cut. Now I can rejoice that he was.

    All in all I think Llungberg and Montero are two of the bigger divers in the league but at the same time they are two of the more exciting players. I’d prefer these guys not be diving but I can understand why they do in MLS. Guys get murdered out there the answer isn’t to not punish the diving it’s to punish the reckless tackles etc more harshly and punish the diving.

    Oh yeah to those of you who don’t think that a fall can cause spinal trauma, the Mayo Clinic would tend to disagree with you. I’m not saying the fall caused the swelling etc because again to me it looks like he might have gotten an elbow in that mess that was the attempted tackle but it is possible.

  26. Cool. Schmid mentioned to the press this week that the injury was more to the “butt” area than the back, which the video seems to back up. I agree Stahl was not out to hurt him. I think he was just a clumsy rookie in a little over his head.

  27. last thing we need is for danny szetela to do a “failed european career” tackle on JPA in the penalty box and break his leg. he’ll get a red card, 3 game (or more) suspension, and a pat on the back from Nowak…

  28. He’s putting on more muscle so keep up with the physicality of the MLS. hes not doing it to dive more.

    two separate things my friends

  29. Yes, tony stahl didnt touch him the first time and he dived in that video.

    But later in the match Stahl clearly kneed him in the back and deserved the red card he got for it (how is a knee in the back in any way a challenge on the ball?). So why the hell are we talking about this first challenge which was just 3 guys getting tangled up clumsily

    If ur gonna be aggressive at least do it like Alonso and go for the ball not aimlessly flail and hack at peoples bodies above the ground

    Stahl played like an idiot and Ljunberg took advantage of it. Good for him

  30. Here is the way I see it. Salazar is out there trying to manage a game in tough circumstances; physical play with off the ball fouls from the get go, rain and cold, etc.. He needs to keep things the game from disintegrating. Stahl comes through Freddie from behind, with little chance of playing the ball.

    From that video I don’t see a knee in the back, but under the circumstances I see a bookable offense. The call was about sending a message and trying to keep the game playable. Stahl clearly didn’t get the message and deserved his sending off. Hopefully he learns from it.

    However, Freddie clearly was injured. You could see it his movements for the rest of the time he was in the game. I don’t see this as great example of Freddie going to ground TOO easily.

    It was however a pretty good example of some very clumsily challenges. First player in late, second player having no opportunity but than to play Freddie, not the ball.

    Nowak should have kept his mouth shut, and I tend to agree Freddie that the comments were pretty low class.

    In the spirit of full disclosure I am a die-hard Sounder’s fan going back the NASL.

  31. YES. It was his TAILBONE. You can clearly see the knee coming up to his tailbone, not his back! Ljungberg was slowing down, and the defenders knee came up and hit him in the tailbone. Anyone who has had this happen knows the pain. If you haven’t, I would gladly demonstrate it on you.

  32. Even if there was contact to knock him down, that was obviously a dive. Just watch his whole body goes limp as if he was struck by an invisible taser. And if he had fallen more naturally he wouldn’t be hurt. Poetic justice.

  33. If you think Llungberg dives look at Montero. That guy falls over if you blow on him. I mean that literally. If you blow on him he’ll fall over and grab his leg like you hit it with a bat. I’m not exaggerating.


Leave a Comment