When Fredy Montero turned down offers from Europe and came to the Sounders FC before the 2009 season, he did so with hopes of garnering the attention of the Colombian National Team.
In 2009, he was named MLS Newcomer of the Year after posting 12 goals and seven assists to help the Sounders to the playoffs and a US Open Cup title.
It wasn’t enough for Colombia manager Eduardo Lara.
In 2010, he had 10 goals and 10 assists, again helping the Sounders reach the playoffs and earn another US Open Cup championship.
New Colombia manager Hernan Dario Gomez needed to see more.
In 2011, he had a slow start, but finished the season with 12 goals and nine assists. The Sounders again reached the playoffs and won a third straight Open Cup crown.
This time Gomez and Leonel Alvarez, who himself played five seasons in MLS, turned Montero away.
Now with Jose Pekerman at the helm, Montero is looking to improve even more on an already impressive start to his MLS career and earn that elusive call-up. Along the way, he has high hopes for the Sounders FC as they embark on their fourth season in MLS.
“When the season is going to start, we are always thinking that everything has to be better. For me, everything has to be different,” Montero said. “I want to win different trophies. I want to win games. I want to go to the Colombian National Team. Those are my goals for now.”
Accomplishing the first two goals – winning across all competitions – will help Montero gain the attention of the right people to reach his third goal.
What also will help is the influx of Colombian players into MLS.
There are 26 active MLS players from Colombia, the most of any country outside the US. However, just two – Diego Chara from Portland and Chicago’s Rafael Robayo – have been called up in the last twelve months. And Robayo, who just joined the Fire this off-season, earned his first call-up before signing with MLS.
Where Montero will be helped this year is that he will have a chance to face some of the top clubs in the region again in the CONCACAF Champions League, beginning Wednesday against Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals.
“We need to fight for that because that’s the only international tournament that we have the opportunity to play,” Montero said. “We have to show the best as a team and make MLS proud of the team and show that we can play for our National Team. It’s good for the league. We need to continue to grow as a league. The level here is good. I am ready to be a part of that team and I think this year could be better for that.”
His preparedness for the 2012 season has been apparent throughout the preseason. Throughout camp, Schmid has praised his leadership and readiness and Montero notched five goals in five matches, all five goals coming against MLS and Mexican Primera Division opponents.
That bodes well for a player looking to stand out against top-flight opponents.
Already he has three goals and two assists in seven matches in this edition of the CONCACAF Champions League to lead the Sounders.
“He’s been pretty consistent here over the last three years and now he’s in very good form as well,” Schmid said. “I think us being able to play against clubs from Mexico and those comparisons now are good.”
A fast-starter in his first two MLS seasons, Montero struggled at the beginning of 2011, scoring just two goals in Seattle’s first 16 league matches. Hindered by a cast on his wrist, Montero toiled through those games, but came on strong to close out the season, rocketing him back into MVP consideration late in the year with nine goals and five assists in his last 13 appearances.
A start of that proportion will surely push him to the forefront of the conversation of the top players in MLS, but also should earn him some national team attention as well.
“I feel ready for what we are going to do – those expectations that the team and the fans have for us. I know what the Sounders have to be. We have to win every game in Seattle because 36,000 people want those three points. That’s my motivation every single game,” he said. “The opportunity is there. The motivation is there. We just want to play the games.”