Fredy Montero was the first true Sounders star and scored the very first goal in the MLS franchise's history. Now, having recently purchased an Eastside residence, he'll return Wednesday night to CenturyLink Field for the first time since 2012 as a top threat for the first place Vancouver Whitecaps.
Fredy Montero achieved some of his finest moments both on and off the field as the first true Sounders star.
Not only did he score a dozen goals as a Major League Soccer rookie in 2009, he also met his future wife, Alexis, a Gig Harbor native, that same year. She would eventually follow Montero back to his native Colombia to play following the 2012 season and now, he’s returned the favor somewhat by purchasing an Eastside home where they and daughters, Vivienne, 3, and Ruby, 1, can live off-seasons and once his career is done.
But while this region may now truly be his new home, as well as his former pro soccer lair, Montero admits he’s in uncharted territory returning Wednesday night as a member of the first place Vancouver Whitecaps. It’s his first game back here since returning this season to MLS from overseas and he’s expecting some memories and a few jitters to come flooding back upon taking the field.
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“It’s going to be a new feeling for me,” Montero said. “I don’t really know whether the people are going to be mean to me, or what. I know how, in Seattle, when they get loud, they get really passionate about the game. So, I’m excited that they’ll see me. But honestly, I don’t really know what to expect.”
Montero penned a Players Tribune article published Tuesday in which he described scoring the franchise’s first goal and how the crowd’s roar was unlike anything he’d heard before. He agreed that moment sticks out as a favorite for him as well as winning three consecutive U.S. Open Cup titles from 2009-11.
“That was something unforgettable,” he said.
So was meeting his future wife and going on a first date to an Italian restaurant with questions in English cribbed for him by teammates on pieces of paper. He detailed that date in the Players Tribune piece.
By 2012, after 47 goals in four Sounders seasons, he moved back to Colombia to play in the capital of Bogota for Millonarios FC. And his wife went with him to an unfamiliar South American country.
“It was difficult for her and I knew it was going to be,” he said. “We had a chance to support each other. I knew my country and what to do, where to go and not to go. I tried to give her advice and tell her all the things about it. She took the opportunity to learn Spanish and went to classes. And then, after five months, I got the opportunity to go to Europe.”
So, the couple was off again, first to Portugal for three years with Sporting CP in Lisbon — where their daughters were born — and then to the Chinese Super League with Tianjin Teda last season. Partway through last year, mulling an MLS return, he purchased the Eastside home. Montero, his wife, and daughters spent the recent FIFA World Cup qualifying breaks staying at the residence.
“I owned a small condo where I used to live with my fiancee back in the day,” he said. “But now, we’re a bigger family with two kids, so we decided that was the moment to have a big house to come back to and have enough space so we can enjoy it.”
Montero said the “plan for now” is to live there after his soccer retirement. But having only turned 30 in July and with a career MLS high 13 goals in 29 games thus far for his Western Conference leading squad, retirment could be quite a ways off.
Wherever he winds up living, he’s made himself at home against the Sounders in two games thus far, scoring three times at the pair of B.C. Place Stadium matchups.
“I think whenever you play against a good team, especially the defending MLS champions, you get some adrenaline,” he said. “You want to prove yourself. Show what level you are at. For us as a team, we see Seattle as big rivals and a team we want to beat. We also want to prove to ourselves that we are ready to be in the playoffs.”
As for the Sounders, they have some proving to do before being declared playoff-ready. They’ve scored just three times their last five matches and gone winless in all of them. They trail first place Vancouver by only four points but are also just five points ahead of San Jose and Houston for the final playoff spot.
As when they struggled earlier this season in scoring and winning, the Sounders are trying to get a new attacking group in sync with one another. Earlier on, it was getting a healthy Clint Dempsey used to playing alongside Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris and a flurry of midfield bodies out on the left wing.
These days, Spanish playmaker Victor Rodriguez is still adjusting to life alongside Dempsey and Lodeiro while veteran Will Bruin is now the starting striker with Morris likely sidelined for the season by a hamstring strain.
“I would say the circumstances are a little bit different…but yeah, I think there’s some validity there,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “I think getting Victor (Rodriguez) in a good pairing with Nouhou (Tolo), or Joevin (Jones). Or, Victor and Dempsey, Victor and Nico (Lodeiro), Victor and Bruin, I think that’s a valid concern.”
As will be the onetime franchise superstar lining up opposite them.