VANCOUVER, B.C. - Major League Soccer is the next stop in the whirlwind career is Swedish defensive midfielder, Gustav Svensson. Seattle Sounders FC signed Svensson on January 30, 2017 after he decided to try his traits in MLS. The 30 year-old, Svensson played 33 games for Guangzhou R&F in the Chinese Super League China last season.
Not many footballers have a passport with as many stamps as Svensson's. The Gothenburg native, has had two different stints with his hometown club, IFK Göteborg. He's spent time playing in Ukraine with Tavriya Simferopo, and with Bursaspor in the Turkish Süper Lig.
"It's (MLS) pretty similar to Sweden," said Svensson when comparing leagues. "It's a lot of turf, it's physical. It's hard work, you do everything for the team, that's very similar to Sweden. Compared to Turkey, Ukraine, or China where I played, it's more individual play. You depend more on the individual skills. That's probably the biggest difference."
Players coming over from Europe are often surprised by how physical MLS is, and how little time and space you have. Everything is called a lot closer, and it takes an adjustment period for new faces. When you factor in the lengthy travel, and 22 previously new pitches, Svensson is trying to find his way with Seattle.
"I would say the Allsvenskan is even more physical," admitted Svensson.
"Here you have a little bit more talented players. In Sweden there's a lot of physically good players, but not technically that good, so they rely on the physical and play very very hard and run a lot."
The Sounders are coming off a 2-1 loss to Vancouver on Friday in a season that has them sporting a 1-2-3 record. The latest Swedish import, Svensson, has seen 489 minutes of action. He has yet to hit the score-sheet, but he was named to the MLS Team of the Week in Week 5.
Seattle in particular has had a successful history with Swedish footballers. Freddie Ljungberg represented Sounders FC from 2009-2010, and Erik Friberg was part of Seattle's MLS Cup Championship last year. In fact, it was Friberg who helped convince Svensson to make Seattle his next destination in his career.
"Erik (Friberg) is a good friend," revealed Svensson. "I followed him a little bit. I hadn't seen a whole game before I came here, but I've seen a lot of highlights of Seattle. I called him before I signed the contract. He was a big influence for me coming here."
Seattle Sounders FC Coach Brian Schmetzer, was in a sour mood following Seattle's defeat to Vancouver, but he was quizzed about Svensson's early contributions.
"He's a steady player, good," said Schmetzer. "He's got a good pedigree, he played at a high level overseas, and we're fortunate to have him."
On the international stage, Svensson has 6-caps for Sweden. He has somewhat fallen off the national team radar after his move to China. Whether Coach Janne Andersson has interest in calling up MLS based players is unknown. Getting out of China to a thriving league, at least gives Svensson a better shot than he might have had before.
"Hard to say," said Svensson when asked if he might get called up by Sweden. "When I went to China it was a difficult choice, because I knew it was going to be harder for the national team to follow me over there. I was honoured that they wanted me as a defensive centre-mid. Normally they just buy strikers, I was very honoured. Yeah, this league is easier to follow. It's more broadcast, it's more attention from the media."
It's always important to re-tool and keep building for the future. Seattle has added much needed depth with the versatile Svensson. He can fill in at multiple positions, and brings a vast level of football experience. The Sounders are going to be tough to beat once they get rolling and 'King Gustav' Svensson will no doubt play a huge part.