Montero helping Sounders FC across the river
By Pat Martin, Soccer Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
With a record of 12-7-11, a playoff spot as the Western Conference's No. 3 seed, a U.S. Open Cup Championship, and almost half-a- million in paid attendance, Seattle Sounders FC was coming off one of the most successful expansion seasons in Major League Soccer history in 2009.
But the first half to the 2010 season didn't go nearly as smoothly.
The Sounders were 4-8-3 after a July 4 loss at the Los Angeles Galaxy, and it appeared the second-year MLS club was headed for a major letdown in 2010.
But since that loss at L.A., the Sounders have gone 5-1-2 to improve their overall record to 9-9-5.
Twenty-three-year-old Colombian striker Fredy Montero has been one of the main reasons for the recent turnaround. He scored five goals during that stretch, three of which were game-winners. He also has three game-winning assists.
Montero has 10 goals and nine assists overall this season, and is on pace to easily best his 12 goals and seven assists of last season, when he won the MLS Newcomer of the Year Award. But his contributions go well beyond the numbers.
Since joining MLS from Colombia's First Division - where he was the Golden Boot winner in 2007 and 2008 - Montero has established himself as one of the league's most consistent attackers. He has made the adjustment to a different culture and to a league that has a lot more travel, is much more physical, and has inconsistent refereeing from game to game. And he has done it all while upping his commitment to the Sounders, both on and off the field.
Fredy Montero has established himself as one of the league's most consistent attackers.
"He has really increased his work-rate on and off the ball for us in terms of helping us out at times defensively and getting himself into some very good offensive positions," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid told The Sports Network. "He's had more touches because the guys have been more comfortable with him. They know where to find him.
"He got used to the league. It's something we talked about. He was already pretty powerful and knew how to use his body, it definitely comes into play. He realizes that some of the calls he would get in Colombia he wouldn't get here, he's fighting through some of those situations. Obviously he's one of our leaders in the game, he's one of our most important players."
Basically, Montero has transformed himself from the hotshot newcomer, into a respected leader on the team.
"I'm happy because I've earned that on the field," Montero told The Sports Network through interpreter Gene Ramirez. "Obviously the responsibility is bigger with my [teammates], coaches, and the [front office], and obviously with all the fans."
Last season Montero put up big numbers as an unknown playing for an expansion team. The fact that it appears like he is going to smash his goal output from a year ago - while already topping his assist mark - is a testament to his hard work, because teams now know what to expect from the 5-foot-9 speedster.
"It is a little harder at the personal level and the collective level because the goals that I am scoring this year are starting to look like a virtue of mine," Montero said. "Last year I was not that well known in MLS."
RUNNING DOWN A DREAM
It's no secret that Montero has his sight set on a transfer to a European power at some point in his soccer career, but so far he is taking a patient approach, refining his game so that he gives himself the best chance for long- term success at the highest level.
"That is my dream and I believe it is the dream of all the players to be in the highest, most competitive leagues in all of Europe," he said. "I'm hoping that when the times comes, I go there and play there for a long time and not just one season and return like some players have done."
One driving force for Montero is the support of his family as he chases his dream.
"It is not easy at my age," he said. "Obviously I left my house at 13-years- old following my dream. I'm still following my dream. It's gratifying that I have my mom, dad, brothers and sisters living with me. It's gratifying to have them by my side."
BUMP IN THE ROAD
Seattle is coming off a 3-1 loss at New England on Saturday, a loss that snapped a seven-game unbeaten run. Will that loss send the team back into a tailspin, or was it a bump in the road to the MLS Cup playoffs?
"Right now our short-term goal is we have to make sure we make the playoffs," Schmid said. "We can't get caught looking ahead. The example I always use for players is, if you are trying to get to the other side of the river and you are walking across stones, your goal is to get to the other side of the river. But if you take your eye off the next stone you go splash and you never get to the other side."
Montero echoed Schmid's statement.
"We are taking it one game at a time and we try to view each game as if it was a playoff game, whether its a CONCACAF game, U.S. Open Cup or an MLS game."
Seattle is currently in seventh in the league table, with the top eight qualifying for the playoffs at the end of October.
FIRST TO TWO
Regardless of what happens in league play this season, the Sounders have a chance to do something no MLS team has ever done before - win back-to-back U.S. Open Cup Championships.
"Nobody has won it back-to-back since the early 80s when a New York team did it when it was basically all of the ethnic leagues all over the country," Schmid said. "Being the first team in a long time to win it back-to-back, being the first team in MLS is something that we would be very proud of. It's unique, it's different, it sets us apart. When you can be the first at something nobody can every take that away from you."
The Sounders host the Columbus Crew in the tournament final on Oct. 5 at Qwest Field.
"You don't get many chances in your lifetime as a soccer player, as a coach, to actually win a championship in your home stadium," Schmid said. "It doesn't happen in MLS Cup very often. Obviously it doesn't happen in [CONCACAF] Champions League and things like that. It is very rare that you get a chance to hoist a trophy in front of your home crowd. We are very excited about that."