Most of the players for the Sounders FC are experiencing something brand new this week while in Argentina for training camp. Strangers in a strange land, struggling with a language barrier that can make the simplest of tasks difficult to complete.
Forward Fredy Montero knows exactly what they are going through.
The Colombian forward came to America for the first time when he started training camp with the club just over a month ago. He didn’t know anyone. He didn’t know his way around. He didn’t speak the language. Yet he has thrived in his new environment.
“I did have some strange feelings at first,” Montero said from Buenos Aires through an interpreter. “It was a different place with new people. But the biggest change I felt was the weather. It shocked me a little. I was coming from a city where it was 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) to a very cold city.”
Now, the team is finding out more about what life has been like for their charismatic striker over the past month while they feel their way around Buenos Aires. Although this is his first trip to Argentina and his native Colombia is over 3,000 miles away, he is still acting as a bit of a guide for his teammates, most of whom know very little Spanish.
“I usually help when people on the street ask us where we are from, I help and explain what they are asking for,” said Montero, 21. “I’m trying to help at the hotel, helping them communicate with staff who don’t speak English. I’m trying to be helpful because I know when I’m in the U.S. I will need help from them.”
Montero has taken well with his teammates, particularly Cuban midfielder Osvaldo Alonso. Through the first half of training camp, the two were often seen laughing and joking together. Though they found comfort with their only other Spanish-speaking teammate, it has not hindered the growth of their English vocabularies.
“Mainly, it helps with the team and the team is the most important part now. But English is an important tool that you can use around the world and around your life. Mainly I want it now to help me with the team but as I go on, it will help me with life in general,” Montero said.
It certainly has helped him in his pairing with strike partner Nate Jaqua. The two have combined for 12 goals in six preseason games. With Jaqua playing the distributing, heading, constant threat of a target forward and Montero being a sheer dynamo with the ball at his feet, the two have been working off of each other and providing a near-perfect amalgamation of such differing styles of play.
“We are taking it step-by-step,” Montero said. “We are scoring in every game and that helps us and it helps the team. We are starting to work together very well.”
This week Montero was joined in camp by a face from his past as defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado started training Thursday. Montero and Hurtado have known each other for five years and played together at Deportivo Cali in the top Colombian league last year.
On a team whose dynamic scoring prowess has been well-documented in the early-going, another experienced center back may be just what the doctor ordered. According to Montero, they may even be getting another high-caliber player from the Colombian ranks.
“Jhon is going to make a big difference. He is an awesome player so he will help a lot when he starts playing,” he said. “Since the first moment he arrived here, I’ve tried to have fun with him and have him get involved with the other players.”
And just like his English-speaking teammates who may struggle in Argentina, Hurtado may need Montero’s assistance to blend in to his new surroundings. And no better guide than his friend Fredy, who as much as the language, has taught him about his new climate.
“I told him it might be cold, so he brought some extra clothes. I wasn’t prepared, but Hurtado will be,” Montero said. “I will help him in whatever way I can.”
The Sounders FC will train in Buenos Aires until March 6. They will play as many as five training games there, the first of which is scheduled for 5 am Pacific Time Friday morning against Estudiantes La Plata. When they return they will play a training game against the Colorado Rapids March 12, leading up to the March 19 season-opener against the New York Red Bulls. Single-game tickets go on sale Monday through SoundersFC.com.