Do the work and you will be rewarded.
That mantra has taken Fredy Montero to new heights in recent months as he pulled himself out of a scoring slump and finished the season in the conversation for the league Most Valuable Player award.
“You always see how Kasey Keller is working. You always want to do your best for guys like that, Montero said. “Servando Carrasco is a rookie and he’s playing like that. It’s exciting to be in this team.”
The results of Montero’s slightly altered approach have been nothing short of remarkable.
He scored or assisted in each of his last eight matches, tallying six goals and four assists to bring his season totals to 12 goals and nine assists. Over the course of those eight MLS matches, dating back to a 1-0 win in Dallas August 20, Montero also has five goals in six games of CONCACAF Champions League and Lamar Hunt US Open Cup play.
Montero is no stranger to the streakiness of strikers, but he still has never had a run like this and finished the season with the longest such streak in MLS this year.
Those offensive successes have helped motivate him to contribute more in other areas of the field too.
“When you score goals and you’re playing good, you feel that extra energy,” he said.
Schmid sees a direct correlation between his celebrations on one end of the field and his increased involvement in other aspects of the game.
“As a goal-scorer, it’s your life blood. It’s like a rush of adrenaline. It just makes all the other things easier to do,” Schmid said. “When he knows that the team is supplying him and the team is giving him the opportunities to score and bang away goals, he’s also there to give more of himself in other areas.”
His joy has extended well beyond the stadium, too. Always a practical joker off the field, he’s found himself laughing much more with his teammates of late as the camaraderie within the club has players competing hard in training and laughing like longtime friends as soon as the whistle blows.
“I always want to have fun,” Montero smiled. “Even at practice or when we are traveling to away games. I’m happy when I’m out there.”
His growth in the last few years, and even more so in the last few months, prompted Schmid to award Montero the captain’s armband for the team’s final CONCACAF Champions League match against Monterrey at CenturyLink Field on October 18.
“He’s matured and he’s grown. His understanding of his role within the team, his confidence in fulfilling his role within the team, understanding how to play with his teammates – it’s all grown and gotten stronger and better. It’s really a tribute to the effort that he’s putting in,” Schmid said. “Against Chivas there were four or five times that he covered for other players going forward. That’s a maturing process that he sees that part of the game. From a standpoint of being an individual within the team, he’s grown an awful lot.”
Part of that specific growth, Montero credits his teammates and the growing and evolving understanding he has with them. His increased playing time with players like Alvaro Fernandez, Mauro Rosales and Lamar Neagle on the wings and Mike Fucito and Sammy Ochoa as a strike partner, his attack prowess has become even more potent.
“When you play together so many times with the same guys, you know them and they know you. That’s changed our team,” Montero said. “We had so many injuries early in the year, that we weren’t used to each other.”
Now they are not only used to each other, but also bonded in a common goal – winning MLS Cup.
With a goal scorer with the abilities of Montero finding his form at just the right time, it only increases the likelihood that Seattle will be lifting another trophy to go with their three US Open Cup titles, the Cascadia Cup and the Heritage Cup.
“We really want that trophy. We know we need to win all of those games before we get to the final. We just need to be focused and mature,” Montero said. “This is soccer. You never know what’s going to happen.”