It was a somewhat light training session for the Sounders FC on Tuesday. The light atmosphere was highlighted by a softball game at Starfire.
After the fun and laughter stopped, though, many of the players stayed for an hour to play small-sided soccer games and finish up with some other position-specific drills.
In front of one goal, with a right arm wrapped in a cast and covered in tape, Fredy Montero intently banged in goal after goal with crosses coming in from assistant coach Brian Schmetzer. He and O’Brian White swapped turns taking shots on goal from inside the box for nearly an hour and a smile didn’t cross Montero’s face until he was finished.
“It’s good to be back on the field,” he grinned. “There’s no better feeling.”
He’s only been out since March 31, when he had surgery on his left wrist to repair damage done on a fall he took in training two weeks earlier. To Montero, it felt like an eternity, though, as he watched his team thrive on the field with a road draw against the San Jose Earthquakes and a win over the Chicago Fire in front of over 36,000 fans at Qwest Field.
Ever the showman, Montero was a bit conflicted in his emotions about the two matches.
“I feel weird because I don’t like to watch the games on tv or out at the stadium, but I’m happy because the team has had two good games. That’s the way we need to go forward,” he said.
Now, with the possibility that Montero will return to the lineup to face the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid is faced with an interesting dilemma. Mauro Rosales has played incredibly in Montero’s place as a second striker, picking up two assists in his two starts. And while Rosales can move to the right side of the midfield or to partner with Osvaldo Alonso in the middle of the park, that would displace either Erik Friberg or Brad Evans, who have also had success in the last two games, Evans scoring a goal and Friberg notching an assist against San Jose.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. We won’t worry about it right now,” Schmid said. “Guys are playing well. It’s tough to break up a team that hasn’t lost in their last three games. We want to continue to build on that.”
For his part, Montero isn’t assuming he will get his starting role back the moment he is able to play.
“It’s going to be a good competition because OB is scoring goals and playing really well for the team,” he said. “We are happy for that.”
Even if he does feel set to return this week against Philadelphia, it will have to be under the blessing of Schmid and the trainers. And even then, only after he shows in training that he is able to withstand the bumps that come with playing forward in MLS, particularly against a team like the Union that isn’t afraid to take a red card to rough up an opponent.
“We’ve got to train him so he feels comfortable. Whenever you have a cast on your wrist you have to feel comfortable in case you get hit and you fall down so you don’t fall awkwardly,” Schmid said. “We’ll see how the improvements come along and be smart about it. In the last two games we’ve been able to produce some offence, so there’s no need to rush it or take an undue chance.”
Schmid said Montero would have acted as a neutral player in a normal training session Tuesday and it will steadily increase as the week progresses.
Just like he’s not assuming he will have his normal role, he also is not quick to assess whether or not he will able to take the field on Saturday.
“It’s too early, but I hope to be there. That decision is for the coach, but maybe,” he said. “We have one week to see what happens.”
Montero scored in Seattle’s 2-0 win over the Union in the season opener in 2010.
Kickoff is set for 1 pm on Saturday with TV coverage on KONG 6/16.