Whitecaps forward Fredy Montero, left, isn’t just another opponent for the Sounders: He was their first star player after debuting in the MLS. Darryl Dick The Canadian Press
Whitecaps forward Fredy Montero, left, isn’t just another opponent for the Sounders: He was their first star player after debuting in the MLS. Darryl Dick The Canadian Press

Sounders FC

Sounders braced for emotional reunion with Montero

April 13, 2017 4:13 PM

TUKWILA

Coach or play in Major League Soccer long enough, you’ll eventually see former players or ex-teammates on a different side.

But this reunion for the Seattle Sounders on Friday will be different.

It will be special.

It will be saying hello to Fredy Montero again.

Montero was the first true face of the franchise when it debuted in MLS in 2009, a quick-footed, fast-twitching 21-year-old forward from Colombia.

And he scored goals — lots of them Not only did he score the Sounders’ first goal in MLS, he left in 2012 as the club’s all-time leading goal scorer (47) and assists leader (34).

Montero is now back in MLS — with Cascadia Cup rival Vancouver, on loan from Chinese Super League club Tianjin TEDA. The Whitecaps host Seattle on Friday night at BC Place in British Columbia.

“Of course, I still have friends there,” Montero told reporters in Vancouver this week. “It was an organization I helped a little bit to build the name, and all the trophies that they have from the beginning.”

True to his nature, he understated his impact on the Sounders.

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer scouts Vancouver

The Sounders will visit the Whitecaps at 7 p.m. on Friday.

Todd Milles tmilles@thenewstribune.com

Coach Brian Schmetzer was on the scouting trip to Colombia with top talent evaluator Chris Henderson and co-owner Adrian Hanauer in 2008 when Montero was the Colombian league’s top goal scorer with Deportivo Cali.

“We saw this young kid with a ton of talent … and it spoke volumes on the field,” said Schmetzer, who was then an assistant coach to Sigi Schmid. “He had the flair that we wanted.”

After a match, the Sounders crew met for dinner with Montero and his agent, Helmuth Wennin.

By Schmetzer’s account, Montero said little during their first encounter. He was shy, in fact.

“On the field, he was this really big person,” Schmetzer said. “Off the field, he was real nice and quiet. Some of that is still true today.”

Montero tallied 12 goals in 27 matches during Seattle’s inaugural MLS season. The next season, it was down to 10. But in 2011, he matched his first-season total. And in his final season in 2012, he scored a career-high 13 goals.

“Fredy was street-smart,” Schmetzer said. “He was so good at figuring out ways to be better than the guy he was playing against that day. Sometimes he’d throw his body in the way and get penalty kicks. Other times, he’d put it between the guy’s legs.

“It didn’t matter what method he tried to use. He was always trying to outthink people.”

Montero was loaned to Primeira Liga, a club in Portugal, in 2013. He scored a hat trick in his debut and scored 27 career goals in three seasons for that side.

Last season, he played his first season in China, tallying nine goals for Tianjin TEDA.

Now a few months shy of his 30th birthday, Montero has returned to MLS a more mature player.

“Look at him now, he’s fit. He’s lean. He’s in good shape,” Schmetzer said. “He still possesses those talented feet.”

Even though he is not the centerpiece of Vancouver’s attack, Montero has a goal and an assist in five appearances this season.

“He is a dangerous player,” said Sounders midfielder, Osvaldo Alonso, one of his ex-teammates in Seattle. “We have to be aware of him. He scored a lot of goals for us, and he went to Europe and scored a lot of goals, too. It will be tough for us.”

Montero admits it might be a tough day for him, facing his old club.

“I am defending the colors of a different team, which I am proud of,” Montero said. “But it is going to be special, that is for sure.”

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