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Fredy Montero could be best move of MLS offseason

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Sounders forward has looked happy, motivated and very good in preseason.

Fredy Montero Lindsey Wasson / Sounders FC Communications

The last time Fredy Montero was something like an elite goal-scorer was 2017, his first season back in MLS after spending five years abroad. Montero scored 13 goals for the Vancouver Whitecaps and added six assists that year, a rate of .69 goals+assists per 90 that ranked 19th best in the league.

Over the last two seasons in MLS, his rate of goal-creation hasn’t been bad, but it’s not been anything like elite either.

But the Sounders really don’t need him to be elite in order for this to be a very successful signing. With Raúl Ruidíaz leading the line and Nicolas Lodeiro pulling the strings, the Sounders would be perfectly happy if Montero just fit somewhere in between.

While it remains to be seen if Montero or Will Bruin is the first choice starter alongside Ruidíaz in the expected 3-5-2 formation, it’s not hard to imagine either one complementing the other attacking pieces. In Montero’s case, he can drop back into possession and allow Ruidíaz to stay high while giving Lodeiro more freedom to roam to the sidelines and look to create overloads with the wingbacks. If it’s Bruin, that potentially allows Ruidíaz to get more involved in possession and show off more of the playmaking ability that he flashed on occasion last year.

We’ve only gotten to see highlights so far, but it looks as though Bruin and Montero make a nice pairing, as well. The two forwards have already connected on multiple goals during preseason games and scrimmages, including a particularly tasty exchange last weekend. Montero then added two more goals from nearly-as-tasty exchanges with João Paulo.

Granted, this was an intrasquad scrimmage, so it’s not exactly live rounds. But in the three preseason games from which the Sounders have shared highlights, Montero has scored six goals. He’s looked comfortable with Bruin as a strike partner, appears to be thriving with his midfielders and generally sounds like a guy who’s got a new lease on life.

“I’m living the dream,” Montero said after last week’s game. “The guys have been receiving me the best way I can imagine.”

We should probably be careful about how much we’re reading into Montero’s performances mostly against teammates, USL players and academy kids. None of this means he’s going to contend for a golden boot, but he seems to be dispelling the idea that he got old while with the Vancouver Whitecaps the last two years.

Montero has been trying to get back with the Sounders at least as far back as 2017. Even after signing with our Cascadia rivals, he continued to call the Seattle area home and has never shied away from maintaining a fondness for the club.

Prior to signing this offseason, he and Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer had a heart-to-heart at Montero’s Roosevelt neighborhood coffee shop. Schmetzer explained to Montero that the Sounders were, at the time, still planning to play in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which likely meant that Montero would be coming off the bench. Schmetzer also explained that Bruin was still the entrenched backup. There was a very real chance, in Schmetzer’s telling, that Montero would struggle to find minutes, especially if he wasn’t doing the work in training to justify them.

“I’ll work hard,” Montero told Schmetzer. “I’m going to make you get me on the field.”

Schmetzer was convinced.

“He was in 100 percent,” Schmetzer said during his YachtCon: Back to School interview. “I believe Fredy. I think he wants to end his career here. He wants to end his career on a positive note. He’s always been competitive. He’s had success at many different levels. He’s been very good.”

From the moment Montero first talked to the press following his signing, it’s been obvious that he was happy to be back. During his first stint with the Sounders, Montero was a young man in a new country, learning a new language and sometimes struggling with the idea that as the team’s most talented player that he might need to show leadership in ways that stretched beyond the boxscore.

He’s returned a world traveler, a husband, a father and exuding a level of confidence we’ve never before seen. During his introductory press conference, he cracked jokes between wide smiles and answered every question with flawless English.

Montero returns to the Sounders mostly free of expectations. He won’t need to be their leading scorer, their primary playmaker or maybe even a starter. The good news is that he still looks capable of doing all those things.