Brian Schmetzer and Fredy Montero had coffee together this past offseason.
The current Seattle Sounders head coach and the club’s former forward were catching up. Montero, under contract with Chinese team Tianjin Teda, was in town visiting. The two spoke about nearly everything but soccer: how Montero was, how his wife and kids were doing.
“Fredy is a good guy,” Schmetzer said on Tuesday. “I always had a good relationship with him.”
Not long after their conversation, Montero, 29, signed with the Vancouver Whitecaps on a year-long loan. And on Friday, when the Whitecaps welcome the Sounders to BC Place (7 p.m. PT; Q13FOX, KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360AM), Montero will square off against his former team for the first time.
“I think everybody on the team respects what Fredy’s done in his career,” said Schmetzer. “It’ll be interesting, but once the whistle blows, he’s the enemy.”
Many former Sounders have lined up against Seattle, but few, if any, of the ilk of Montero. He is the club’s all-time leading goalscorer and scored the Sounders’ first MLS goal. He recorded double-digit goalscoring seasons in each of his four years in Seattle. He was the 2009 MLS Newcomer of the Year and a three-time MLS All-Star. And he helped Seattle to three consecutive U.S. Open Cup titles.
“It was an organization that I helped a little bit to build up the name,” Montero said on Tuesday, “and all the trophies they have in the beginning, I helped a little bit as well.
“Winning the first trophy, that was super special,” he continued. “Whenever you have the opportunity to be the first, it’s always going to be in history. That was the best moment that I had back in Seattle.”
When Montero left Seattle in 2013 on loan to Millonarios in his native Colombia and then to Portugal’s Sporting CP in 2014, he said he always knew he wanted to eventually come back to MLS. His move to Vancouver was met with mixed emotions especially from his former teammates. Brad Evans, who was also part of the Sounders’ inaugural MLS season, tweeted his displeasure with Montero’s decision.
But for a player who is coincidentally the Sounders’ all-time leading scorer against the Whitecaps, even he never imagined he’d be lining up for another team in a Cascadia rivalry.
“Back then, no [I didn’t think that],” Montero said with a laugh. “I really enjoyed my time playing and scoring goals in these kind of games because they are unique and special in MLS. ”Montero is still close with several of his former Sounders teammates. He exchanged text messages with Osvaldo Alonso and Alvaro Fernandez recently and is excited to see them again prior to the match.
Alonso said he was looking forward to seeing Montero again, but “[moving to different teams is] part of soccer. Sometimes you’re here and sometimes you’re there. Now he’s in Vancouver, but we’re focusing on our team. We’re going to go there and try and find the three points.”
With Brek Shea out indefinitely and Erik Hurtado battling a foot contusion, there is a legitimate chance Montero starts up front in head coach Carl Robinson’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Montero has a goal and an assist in five regular-season matches so far, and while starting against his former team may take some getting used to, Montero is doing his best to put his time in Seattle temporarily behind him.
“I’m defending the colors of a different team that I’m proud of,” Montero said, “and I guarantee you I’m going to do everything I can, everything I have in my power to help my teammates win this game.
“It’s not going to be any different than any other games,” he continued. “I would like to win, I’m going to give everything I have to win this game, but it’s going to be special, that’s for sure.”