There's a saying in baseball - You can't hit a five-run home run. When teams struggle they sometimes try to force things, in Miguel Montano we saw against the Earthquakes the type of energy and drive that had many commenters here claiming he "wanted" a win more than other players. While that may be true, he also seemed to push himself and rush a little bit.
Montano displayed strong footwork. He split the defense on several occaissions. His interplay with Zakuani, Ljungberg and others was strong. He then took a shot, and it sailed over, probably just a bit rushed. It was almost as if that one shot was the one that should have opened the floodgates and been worth two goals. Sigi called it out as one of the misses that changed the game.
"It’s just the frustration of creating the amount of chances that we did and not being able to finish...The Montaño shot from in close that goes over, that’s a good, quality chance."
It's almost as if Montano captured the temperment of the team. He fell to his knees after that miss, having to be pulled up by the grizzled veteran - 22-year-old Steve Zakuani. Young Montano may parallel the young Sounders, both are immensely talented, and have speed. They are decent with the ball at their feet. They make occaissional mistakes, but their athleticism can make up for those.
They also can't be defined by their misses.
"Every team, every player goes through it and these guys know it. It’s just that it comes in waves. Right now the bunches for whatever reason aren’t going our way, and vice-versa the goals are going in. Whether it’s an offside call or a lack of concentration, for whatever reason it happens. What you have to do is battle through it and at the same time compete for second chances. If the goals aren’t going in and your head’s down, bad things are going to continue to happen. You just have to keep a positive attitude, sometimes you’re going to win 1-0 and you’re going to have a lot of chances, but it’s not going to go in the net. Sometimes you might win 4-3 and the goals are coming. As long as the chances are coming, that’s the positive as long as you can create chances."
That's Pat Noonan talking to Sounder at Heart on the team's offensive woes, but it could be Noonan talking to young players who have had those opportunities and missed. Zakuani, Nyassi and Montano all had quality opportunities on Saturday and missed.
Montano had to be helped up to rejoin the play. He's earned his opportunities with his limited time, and while none have gone in, is it time for the coaching staff to give up on this young player? Or were his moments of brilliance greater than that the moment of failure? In many sports, the fans are willing to forgive youth, while coaches tend to forgive veterans. Most here know I'm not a fan of churn for the sake of churn.
Montano created well. He offers another player who can make a difference with the ball at his feet. He can bring the ball from the central third to the final third all on his own. But he also must not dwell on that miss. It was off by mere fractions, and the future bodes well.
"When you’re in that final third, you just can’t get too excited," Noonan said. "Someone like Montano who’s got a lot of flare, and he’s dangerous in terms of beating guys and getting shots off, but we’ve got to put these shots on target. And that’s everybody. You get excited once you get good scoring opportunities and you have to stay calm and pass the ball like you’re passing it to a teammate, but you’re passing it to the back of the net. You have to know when to strike in terms of if you can do a 1-2 to get a shot or you beat a guy and get a shot. As long as you’re making the right decision in the final third and putting the ball on frame, good things will happen."
The healthy attacking options are two veterans (only one with significant MLS experience) and a rash of guys who could play on an Olympics team (U-23) -Montero, Nyassi, Zakuani, Montano, Estrada. One or two, or even three of them are going to be on the pitch together. They all have speed, and they all can change the game in a moment, either with a brilliant pass or a deft shot, but they are no more likely to have their recent lack of finishing touch change their approach than Ljungberg or Noonan would.
Noonan talks about how he's seen teams go through this before
"... you go through it on the individual and the team front. It’s frustrating when it’s on the team front because when that happens, usually you’re not winning games. In terms of individuals, I’ve been through plenty of that as well. You keep taking chances, and if it’s not going well for you, maybe you lay the ball off and give it to the guy who’s hot at the time and let him carry the load. Right now, it’s whoever it can come from on this team. We have to be happy it’s coming from someone because you can’t rely on one or two guys, it has to be everybody."
Montano created those chances. He deserves the time. He may be the one that unlocks the floodgates. He was just another player who showed that he was more talented than the opponent. The youngest Colombian showed the same things as the entirety of the team has. Talented but failing, Noonan says it's only temporary, and it likely is. The Sounders have the skills to be one of the better offensive teams in the league.
"There’s no question the talent is there. I think we’re working hard as well. In terms of that final decision, whether it’s that final cross, that final pass, final shot, we’re just that little bit off. That’s the difference between winning a game 3-0 or losing 1-0. You’re only going to get a few really good chances in this league each game and you have to make the most of it. Those chances will start going in the net for us and when they do and this team starts getting more confident and creating more chances we’ll be a very good team."
Miguel Montano keeps showing that he deserves more time; if you base that judgement on performance and not on results. He represents the team in this case. Younger than average, good speed, solid footskills, decent passing ability and yet the results aren't there.
If the failures of Montero, Zakuani and Ljungberg mean that they shouldn't play, the same could be said for the rest of the offense. The talent is there. Good fortune has not been.