There's no doubt about it, Fredy Montero's meteoric rise over the past two years has him as one of the most respected names in MLS. He is the American Dream for this club and the league.
From the very first day, one of the missions of the Sounders organization was to bring to the club the right level of talent and potential from all around the world. While Designated Player titles carry the most publicity and marketing potential, it's the long hours spent in scouting the relative unknowns that can really define the success of a team. Fredy was one of those, a mere kid who was rapidly outgrowing the learning environment of his Columbian league who the Sounders brought in on a gamble.
As one of the earlier signings in the preparation for the first season, very little was known about Fredy, but so much was initially pinned on him. And luckily for everyone involved, Fredy blossomed in his first season in MLS, as he and the entire Sounders organization took the league by storm (you never really forget your "first"). Not only that, but by his second season, Fredy had demonstrated his ability to control matches, put it all on the line, and single-handedly win it for his team. This is reflected in the fact that Fredy led the team in both seasons for goals, suffered a whopping 122 fouls from opposing teams, and has given Seattle 5 wins by scoring match winners.
However, we all know that Fredy's tremendous raw talent also comes with some raw emotion, and specifically immaturity. In both seasons, Fredy has at times faced spells of bad form. In his first season, he went through a particular rough patch, where he wasn't playing well and it affected his attitude on the pitch. It was evident that after starting the season off well, he stopped caring and his body language showed that he was frustrated. As loving Seattle fans, we gave him the only kind of love we know, tough love. Calls for him to be benched were answered, and after a few games riding the pine, Fredy came back hungrier than ever.
As Fredy matures (he's still only 23), he's only going to get better, both in terms of work ethic and results on the field. So it's not surprising that in his short two years in Seattle, he's attracted all sorts of rumors of clubs wanting him. You name it, they (supposedly) want him. Fulham in England, CSKA Moscow, Celtic FC.
Which begs the question, when is he leaving? It seems inevitable really, that Seattle would only be a temporary stop for him to showcase his talents before he inks that more lucrative contract in Europe. Or at least that was the plan. Because the one thing I hate most about MLS is that it really is an open bar for richer European clubs to practically walk out with our best players. Clint Dempsey was signed away for less than $4 million. Maurice Edu was barely a little over that. Michael Bradley was likely half that price. And the thing is, they are all American players. If Landon Donovan wasn't the complete icon that he is for USSF and MLS, he would be at Everton for chump change. So if and when suitors from Europe ever seriously started looking at Fredy Montero, there would be very little from MLS to stop him from leaving, and it would likely be for an unfair price that would leave the Sounders short changed.
Lately I've been putting myself in my time machine and traveling 10 years down the road, and trying to get a glimpse of where the Sounders would be. And with Fredy, I'm not quite sure where he would be. I think he has the potential to one day play for a top tier Euro team, maybe Everton, Valencia, or even Arsenal. Probably not Chelsea or Barcelona, but who knows? The real question isn't where, but when.
The great thing about Fredy is that he has become a part of the Sounders. I'd like to say more so than clubs usually identify their players. I mean, he's bought a home here where he can support his family and live with them. And his new family, the Sounders community, has supported him by helping with the recovery of his old home in Columbia. He's experienced a lot and is becoming a true Seattle-ite. Yet, one of the biggest steps in his development is his new status as a Designated Player. Having come here as an on loan trialist, and now having the same title as David Beckham, Freddie Ljungberg, and Thierry Henry, it's a confirmation of sorts that the Fredy Experiment is working. So, yeah, no pressure or anything.
But not just that. Where the Beckham Experiment wasn't so much an experiment to see if America would embrace soccer as it was an experiment to sell shirts, the Fredy Experiment was a gamble by the Sounders front office on the success of a team. Only, it's the calculated risks that involve research and hard work and trust that no longer make it a gamble. So if anything, the biggest success story is the Sounders organization in acting off of intelligence and foresight (brains) instead of forming success from cashing in on image and sex appeal (body).
Oh, wait. The other Freddie Experiment. Right.
So what do you guys think? Where do you see Fredy in 5-10 years? Do you think he should leave if the right club comes along?
Me, I hope he stays and we see a long and happy career in green and blue. At the very least, til we see Fredy bring home that MLS cup.