When Juan Pablo Angel started his storied career with Atletico Nacional in Colombia, Fredy Montero was just six years old.
Learning more about the game each day, Montero watched Angel play for the Medellin team through his three-year run at River Plate in Argentina, then from afar as Angel scored 44 goals over six seasons for Aston Villa in the English Premier League.
So when Montero made his debut in Major League Soccer last year, there was a little extra pride in his two-goal, one-assist performance since Angel was on the other side of the field. He added to that success with a game-tying goal in a 1-1 draw in New York, giving him a hand in all four goals for Seattle against the Red Bulls.
“There’s going to be a little bit of pride at stake. Angel is a guy that Fredy would have seen play when he was younger. Doing well against guys that you used to watch on TV is always something you want to strive to achieve,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “So for Fredy scoring a couple of goals against Angel and New York I’m sure made him very happy and proud.”
The Colombian strikers will renew their friendly rivalry tonight at Qwest Field as the Sounders FC (1-0-0) take on the New York Red Bulls (1-0-0).
“I’m very happy. I’ve already had the opportunity to play with him several times,” Montero said. “For the young Colombian soccer players, we’re very prideful to play together and show our skills. So I’m very happy to be playing with him.”
There’s no denying the respect between the two players. When Montero was named MLS Newcomer of the Year for his standout season of 12 goals and 7 assists, it was Angel that presented him with the award during a halftime ceremony at MLS Cup.
“Off the field I have a lot of respect for him, but on the field we are rivals and I’m here to show the colors of the Sounders and to show the fans that we are a winning team,” Montero said.
Along with Montero, defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado also circles the calendar when the Red Bulls show up on the schedule. Last season, when Schmid asked who wanted to mark Angel in Seattle’s first meeting with New York, Hurtado was quick to volunteer and went on to keep the dangerous striker off the board. Schmid didn’t need to remind Hurtado what was at stake.
“You ask the question and you see in their response and the look in their eyes whether they want it or not,” Schmid said. “You don’t have to pump it up. When you know you want it, you say, ‘Great’.”
Kickoff is slated for 7:30 tonight at Qwest Field. The game will be televised nationally on Fox Soccer Channel and can be heard locally on 97.3 KIRO FM.