The rumors that former Sounders star Fredy Montero would be returning to MLS were finally confirmed this past offseason, with the Vancouver Whitecaps acquiring him, kicking off a countdown to his inevitable first appearance against his old club. If Montero starts or comes off the bench on Friday in Vancouver, it’ll be his first time to play against Seattle since he left the club in 2013.
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said earlier this week that once the whistle blows on Friday, Montero is “the enemy.” On Thursday, Schmetzer talked about his earliest interactions with Montero, and said that, even after all these years, he’s as nice and talented as he was on the day they met. “I remember going to Colombia with Chris and Adrian to scout Fredy, and we saw this young kid with a ton of talent and he spoke volumes on the field.” He said Montero’s talent and skill was apparent from the beginning, and that the player had the “flair we wanted” when looking for players to sign to the first ever Sounders MLS squad.
But, even though his personality on the field was explosive and brilliant, Schmetzer said Montero was very shy off the field. “We went and had a dinner with his agents and people and met him and he was shy, wouldn’t talk, really quiet. We had to kind of draw some of his personality out from him.” After all these years, Schmetzer said, Montero hasn’t really changed those aspects of his personality. “So, on the field he was this really big person and off the field he’s really nice and quiet, and I think some of that is still true today.”
One of the big parts of Montero’s game that drew the Sounders early on was what Schmetzer calls “street smarts,” which he interprets as a kind of sixth sense on the pitch. “He was so good about figuring out ways how to be better than the guy he was playing against that day.” Whether it was drawing a penalty, nutmegging the ball through a defender’s legs, or using his size and strength to his advantage, Schmetzer said “it didn’t matter what method he tried to use, he was always trying to out-think people.”
Sounders captain and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who was another Sounders MLS original with Montero, said that it might be weird to face his old teammate—but it’s just “part of soccer.” Once the whistle blows, like Schmetzer said, it’s not about friendship or history — it’s about the 11 guys in rave green. “We focus on our game and our team,” Alonso said. He said the game in MLS has changed a lot since they played together, but one thing is still the same: Montero can do a lot of damage if he’s able to get the ball, and sticking close to him is of the utmost importance.
Montero told reporters in Vancouver this week that even though he has friends and memories in Seattle, he’s fully dedicated to his new team. “Of course I still have friends [there]. It was an organization that I helped a little bit to build up the name, and all the trophies -they had a little bit in the beginning, I helped a little bit as well. But, to be honest, I'm not thinking about my past with Sounders." Even though he’s going to be completely focused on winning the game for his new team, he admits that his first time facing Seattle will be “special.”
Years have obviously passed since Montero last suited up for Seattle, but Schmetzer has kept tabs on his old friend. Having since played in Colombia, Portugal, and China, Montero brings a wealth of experience back to MLS. Schmetzer said that he’s seen that growth in Montero’s career so far. “I think he’s matured a little bit, in that he’s had some different experiences, and he’s been allowed to grow as a person and a soccer player.”
Schmetzer said that with talented players like him, the talent always shines through. Montero has changed and matured in his time away from Seattle and MLS, but when Schmetzer sees Montero play now, he’s still in awe of the talented kid from Colombia, who still “possesses those talented feet of his.” Montero might be stronger, more mature, and more intelligent on the pitch, but Schmetzer said that — just as it did all those years ago — his talent speaks volumes.