SEATTLE – Fredy Montero was never going to be forgotten.
In the 12th minute of every Sounders FC match since the club’s Major League Soccer debut in 2009, the Lumen Field crowd joins in a chorus of “Roll on, Columbia” in celebration of the first big-league goal scored for Seattle.
Montero, a spry Colombian, called for and delivered that historic score off his right foot in the 12th minute against the New York Red Bulls. His second-half brace capped a 3-0 win before 32,523 spectators and rocketed the Sounders to a peak where the organization’s only backslide is losing two of their four MLS Cup appearances since 2016.
Montero re-signed with the club Thursday after a near-decade absence. Much is the same from front-office employees to his club’s all-time leading goal-scoring record, which is set at 60 across all competitions from 2009-12.
For an encore, Montero said he’s aiming to make the record untouchable in also cementing the Sounders atop MLS.
“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 when asked about the record during a videoconference call with media Friday. “It feels amazing, I’m not going to lie to you. And I’m here to make sure that that number keeps going up.”
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer practically rubber-stamped the plan in conversations with Montero leading up to the free-agent signing. According to Montero, the Rave Green will play a two-forward lineup at times, ideally pairing him alongside Raul Ruidiaz, who’s led the club in scoring the past two seasons and is tied for fifth in Seattle history with 42 across all competitions.
MLS veteran Will Bruin and homegrown signee Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez are also forwards who could factor into the scheme and battle for first-team minutes.
Schmetzer was an assistant as Montero ascended to become one of the franchise’s first stars. Schmetzer was the first from the organization to meet in Colombia with Montero, at the time an unknown striker who didn’t speak English. Montero was named MLS Newcomer of the Year in 2009.
“I kept in contact with him (Schmetzer) and his success was my success as well,” Montero said.
Schmetzer took Seattle’s head-coaching position in 2016.
“He was winning trophies and I was happy for him,” said Montero, who led the Sounders to three U.S. Open Cups and four MLS playoff berths. “And the way that he explained it that the team was going to play this year is with two strikers and obviously it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be exciting to start training with him and all of the coaching staff. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
An edge for Montero is his willingness and ability to also assist, ranking second only to co-captain Nico Lodeiro in that category with 34 for the Sounders. But Montero, 33, returns to the Sounders after playing the past two seasons for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, where he seemed at times to have lost some flair, whether because of coaching decisions or age.
With Seattle, Montero will have playmakers like Lodeiro, Joao Paulo and Cristian Roldan to feed him the ball. Montero has never lined up with any of the current Sounders players. He won’t join training camp until he completes a league-mandated, seven-day quarantine to guard against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m going to be worried about trying to take advantage of my abilities in the box,” Montero said. “They create chances, they are always worried about feeding the strikers, and that’s something I’m looking for.”
The striker has also made stops in Portugal and Colombia since leaving the Sounders. Clubs in those countries and Argentina wanted him to return this year, but Montero said he was patient in waiting for the Sounders’ offer.
Forward Jordan Morris suffered a season-ending knee injury in February while on loan with Swansea City A.F.C. The situation provided an accounting measure to sign Montero and remain within the MLS salary cap.
The deal is for one season with the option to pick up two more. Montero said Friday he wants to play at least three, possibly five more years. And the father of three basically wants to retire a Sounder since his wife is a native Washingtonian and they’re owners of a coffee shop in Ravenna.
“Playing overseas, playing in different continents, I’m able to use (my experience) the best way,” Montero said. “I’ve never been a super-fast player. Never been the tallest. Never been the strongest. But always the best-looking on my team. I’m just going to use all of that on my behalf and help the team to reach the goals.”
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