Fredy Montero’s first stint with the Seattle Sounders did not end exactly how anyone hoped. Productive as he’d been during his first four years — giving the Sounders a genuine star during their formative years in MLS and leading them to three U.S. Open Cup titles — his departure seemed to be more about what he was unable to do.
The biggest knock against Montero was his play in the postseason. Although the Sounders had qualified for the playoffs in all four of his years with the club, they had only won a single round and Montero had not scored in any of his 10 appearances. There was a general sense from the Sounders coaching staff and front office that Montero was maybe too comfortable, happy but not necessarily willing to push himself to the next level. The Sounders were so open to the idea of moving on that they initially agreed to loan him to Colombian club Millonarios before ultimately accepting a transfer offer from Sporting CP that didn’t even net them any allocation money.
If there were any hard feelings over how it all ended, though, Montero quickly put them aside. When he was back in town shortly after completing a full transfer to Sporting CP in 2014 — surely burnished by a highly successful first season in which he led the Portuguese giants in scoring while also launching them into Champions League — Montero spoke glowingly of the Sounders and even his desire to return one day.
“I hope so,” Montero said at the time, when asked about playing in Seattle again. “That’s one of my dreams. I hope to be back playing for the Sounders.”
Almost seven years later, it’s now apparent those weren’t empty words. Montero seemed practically giddy on Friday during his first conference call with reporters after the Sounders announced his re-signing, clearly excited to return to the team that gave him his first big break while also providing an opportunity rewrite the happy ending that eluded him last time.
“Sounders is my home, Seattle is my home,” Montero said. “I loved my time playing here. I feel I still have more to give to the team.”
Since 2012, Montero has played for teams in four different countries on four continents, including two different stints with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Through it all, the Colombia native has never stopped calling the Seattle area “home.” Not only is his wife from the area, but they’ve maintained a residence in Bellevue and even co-own a coffee shop in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood.
With a third child on the way, Montero turned down offers from Colombia, Europe and Argentina under the belief that the Sounders would eventually come calling. His faith repaid, Montero is clearly looking forward to setting down even deeper roots and says he thinks he can play three to five more years.
“After nine years of leaving the city and the team, my family and I know that we are no longer going to have to pack our bags,” he said in Spanish, a subtle sign that he does not see this as some sort of farewell tour.
In order for that to come to fruition, though, Montero knows the connection has to be more than emotional.
Just as was the case when he joined the team as a wide-eyed 21-year-old with dreams of one day playing for Real Madrid, Montero sees his primary purpose as being a goalscorer. The 33-year-old openly takes pride in holding the franchise record for all-competition goals (60) and being tied for lead in league goals (47). His intention, he says, is to push those numbers so much higher that no one will soon approach them.
“A lot of good players came into the team and a lot of those players have led the team and I’m still No. 1,” Montero said. “It feels amazing, I’m not going to lie to you; and I’m here to make sure that that number keeps going up.”
There’s reason to believe that all this isn’t just bluster. Although Montero’s goal-scoring numbers have been in a steady decline since scoring 13 for the Whitecaps in 2017, it’s fair to point out that he’s not exactly been surrounded by stellar talent. The Whitecaps often deployed Montero as a lone forward with little offensive support, finishing near the bottom of goals scored in each of the past two years.
Montero’s teammates often struggled to put him in dangerous areas and his elite passing was often wasted, but he still showed flashes of the brilliance Sounders fans fondly remember. Montero believes his understanding of the game has increased enough to make up for any degradation on the physical side.
It should also be said that in his previous seven MLS seasons, Montero has never had running mates with the goal-scoring records of Raúl Ruidíaz and Will Bruin — with whom he’ll likely be deployed — or played with chance-creators on the level of Nicolás Lodeiro, João Paulo and Cristian Roldan.
Montero doesn’t need to be the player he was in order to be nearly as effective.
“I feel all this experience I’ve accumulated I’m able to use it in the best way,” he said. “I’ve obviously never been a super fast, super tallest, strongest — but always the most attractive — and I’m going to use that to accomplish my goals.”
How it all ends is obviously still very unknown. But after nearly a decade away, Montero seems genuinely happy to be exactly where he wants to be.
“I still have family and friends here,” he said. “When they were looking to go to a Sounders game, I’d always look to people I know in the organization — as a Colombian you’re always looking for a discount — and I’d be texting them ‘What is the legend discount? I need tickets for my family.’
“I’m looking forward to seeing them. It’s going to be really nice. Hopefully I’ll be allowed to hug them because I’ve missed them.”