Fredy Montero loves rivalry matches.
The exuberance on his face as he celebrated his two goals to clinch the Cascadia Cup against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night was evidence enough of that fact.
Throughout his Sounders FC career, he’s been a player that has thrived on emotion, particularly when it came to matches with large crowds in big moments for the club. He scored in the Sounders inaugural match, their season opener in 2010 and was the first Sounder to score in CONCACAF Champions League.
Add to that goals in the 2009 US Open Cup final his frequent contributions when the Sounders are on national television and it’s no surprise that he would come up big when the lights are the brightest.
“Fredy’s a player who, like a lot of players, likes to play in front of a crowd and feel that atmosphere. For some, when they sense that atmosphere it brings a little more out of them than others and I think Fredy’s that kind ofguy,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “What’s good for me, is that compared to his first two years here when we had important playoff games and he went dry, hopefully this is an indication of what lies ahead in the playoffs. I think it speaks well for Fredy, but it also bodes well for the team.”
He’s made a habit of it, too.
In addition to his two goals against Vancouver on Saturday, he also scored twice in a 3-2 win over the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field in July and added an assist in Seattle’s draw at home against the Timbers. That's a total of four goals and an assist in leading the Sounders to hoisting the Cascadia Cup in the first year the cup was contested at MLS level.
Celebrating with the immense traveling support made the goal all the more sweet for Montero.
“It’s amazing. You can’t imagine how important you feel when you score those goals in the derby matches,” he said.
Statistically, they’ve been different for Montero in more ways than just his goals, too.
In his 20 starts this season outside of the Cascadia matches, he’s averaging 3.2 shots per match. In the four matches against Portland andVancouver, he averaged seven shots. And while Schmid equates that more to the style of play of the opponents than any sort of change in approach in those matches, Montero freely admits that his game is elevated in those matches.
“When something like that happens, it’s becauseyou are more excited for those games. Those games are different,” he said. “In the rivalry between us and Portland and Vancouver - you never want to lose those games. Those two games are very different than the others in MLS.”
The brace on Saturday extended his point streak to five matches. And while he’s shown an affinity to playing well on the big stage, he’s also proven to be streaky in his Seattle career.
In 2009, he scored in five-straight matches and in 2010, he had a streak of nine-straight matches with a goal or an assist, tallying five goals and four assists in his 2009 streak and five goals and six assists in his run in 2010.
On his current five-game streak, he has three goals and three assists in helping the Sounders to a 4-1-0 record.
Although his output has increased, he is quick to point out the growth of the entire team, noting that the team has worked together and is focused on winning championships.
Schmid points to the success of his teammates as abit of a motivator to Montero, too. Alvaro Fernandez has eight goals and briefly held the team lead before Montero reclaimed it on Saturday. Mauro Rosales, out now with an MCL sprain in his right knee, has exploded for five goals and 12 assists.
The success of his teammates has created more opportunity and motivation for Montero and given him the grounds to mature as aplayer.
Now in his third season in Rave Green, Montero is far from the player that came into the league as a 21-year-old sensation from Colombia who was a wild card to Seattle’s opponents. He has since been well-scouted by teams around MLS, but has also grown accustom about what to expect from the league.
“I think some of the setbacks this year have made him a little more resolute in his approach. There are times this year when he hasn’t played as many minutes and we’ve still found success. Seeing that we could be successful without him maybe makes him dig down and work a little bit harder,” Schmid said.
“He’s grown every year he’s been here and I really think in the last four or five weeks he’s done a really good job of holding the ball up for us and he’s played really strong for us in that regard. Hopefully that can continue into November.”
That is a hope that Montero shares with Schmid.
And, showing his maturation, he’s more than willing to share that spotlight with his teammates as the playoffs approach.
“I love playing with my teammates. We all work so hard together and the effort they give every game is amazing,” he said. “Together we can fight for the MLS championship.”