Fredy Montero burst onto the scene in Seattle on March 19, 2009, scoring in the 12th minute of a 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls – announcing his arrival in MLS with a the first goal in Sounders FC history.
Since that moment, he has been a scoring force in MLS, notching a team-leading 22 goals over two seasons to propel the Sounders to the playoffs in both of their MLS seasons – one of only four teams to reach the postseason in 2009 and 2010.
The club announced on Wednesday that they are rewarding him for his work, signing the 23-year-old Colombian striker to a contract extension and making him the youngest Designated Player in the program’s history.
“This is an honor to be with the Sounders for many years,” Montero said. “And I want to win many championships for the team, for my friends, for my family, for everybody who likes the Sounders.”
Each of his 22 goals has a bit of flair – as if nobody else in MLS could do it the way Montero does. Whether it is his second goal in rave green on a steal off the boots of New York defender Mike Petke and juking goalkeeper Danny Cepero before putting the ball into the net or his next goal on a looping shot that sailed over Real Salt Lake keeper Nick Rimando and dove into the net.
A diving header at home against the Philadelphia Union in the 2010 home opener.
A triumphant header in stoppage time to topple the Chicago Fire.
A twisting free kick from 42 yards out in Dallas.
An elusive move around New England defenders and a shot that seems to go through the goalkeeper.
All uniquely Montero.
Only five players in the league have scored more over the last two seasons than Montero – Colorado’s Conor Casey (29), Jeff Cunningham (28) of FC Dallas, Toronto FC midfielder Dwayne DeRosario (26), Juan Pablo Angel (25) with New York and Chris Wondolowski (23) of San Jose. And only Casey and Cunningham have more points.
“This young man has been a very important part of our franchise from Day One, on and off the field,” Sounders FC owner/GM Adrian Hanauer said. “He’s becoming one of the best players in our league. I think he can be the best player in our league. Bar none.”
He joined the club just days into the start of training camp in 2009 after starting his career with Deportivo Cali in Colombia. He burst on to the scene in Colombia after a season spent on loan to Atletica Huila, where he led all scorers in the league with 13 goals in 18 matches. In his final season in Colombia in 2008, he scored 16 goals in 22 matches.
After that, he came to MLS on loan with his mind set on using the league as a stepping stone to a career in Europe. He still maintains that goal, but has a drastically different view of MLS.
“The MLS is a league that’s growing,” Montero said. “In a few years if there is some interest from Europe, that is a bridge we will cross when we get to it. Right now, I am just going to focus on the MLS and keep playing here.”
In his first year in MLS, he was named MLS Newcomer of the Year and started in the MLS All-Star Game, a shootout loss to Everton of the English Premier League. He also earned Player of the Month honors in March.
In 2010, his game grew and he led the Sounders in goals and assists, with 10 in each category and was named MLS Player of the Month for July.
Twice in his career he has had lengthy scoring streaks. In 2009, he had a five-game goal streak that saw the Sounders go 3-0-2. He also had four assists in that stretch. In 2010, he had nine straight matches where he registered a goal or an assist, tallying five goals and six assists while the Sounders went 5-3-1.
“We would love to have Fredy here in Seattle as long as possible, but we also understand that soccer is a sport where there is a lot of movement and it’s not just an American game. The game is global,” Hanauer said. “If at any time there is an opportunity that is the right opportunity for Fredy and the right opportunity for the Sounders and the league we will sit down and talk about it like we have in the past. For now, we are very, very happy that Fredy is going to be here for some number of years and we hope he can evolve into a leader for our team as well and help us win more championships.”
That feeling is mutual between player and team. Through the frequent rumors that teams would come calling from overseas for Montero’s services, he maintained steadfast in his stance that he was focused on playing in Seattle. That sentiment was strengthened with Wednesday’s announcement.
“The Sounders and MLS gave me an opportunity for a multi-year contract and it’s a great opportunity for me and my family and I’m looking forward to staying with the Sounders for a number of years,” Montero said.
In signing as a Designated Player, Montero surpasses teammate Alvaro Fernandez to become the league’s youngest current DP and overtakes former Houston Dynamo midfielder Luis Angel Landin as the youngest ever DP signing.
The move marks a potential shift in the philosophy of signing players to large contracts as most previous DP signings had been established veteran players with years of experience in more prestigious leagues.
“For us it’s a great opportunity,” Montero said of him and Fernandez. “We are playing at a very good level and although there are players coming into the league from Europe, the Sounders are relying on us. T hey are putting their faith in us and I don’t think we need to change it. We need to keep doing what we are doing.”