Finally, something to push David Beckham out of MLS-related headlines.
Columbian international Fredy Montero is taking the league by storm as he and his expansion Seattle Sounders are tied with Chivas USA atop the Western Conference standings with their two wins to start the season.
Montero has three goals on the year, none more impressive than the long-range strike Saturday night in a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake.
RSL paid plenty of attention to Montero in the match, marking him closely and fouling him often, but he still broke free for the goal to put the match out of reach in the second half.
“From the first kick they showed they were going to be stronger and more physical,” Montero said in Spanish to Seattle Times reporter Jose Miguel Romero, “but obviously this is a matter of playing with an attitude and skill and continuing to ask for the ball, continue to try and make the plays.”
And according to Sounders’ coach Sigi Schmid in the same report, he’s already getting a bit of protection from officials.
“Obviously [Montero got] the league’s attention, and also, the guy, Olave, knows him from Colombia. I’m sure he passed on that information to his teammates,” he said.
“The referee was pretty good about pulling yellow cards quickly and trying his best to protect Fredy. That’s part of the game. It’s part of what Fredy’s going to learn as a player as he matures, because no matter where you play, that’s going to be a part of it.”
Montero, on loan from Deportivo Cali, has quickly drawn the attention and praise of his teammates as well
Freddie Ljungberg – the former Swedish international who made his MLS debut Saturday night – raved about the strike to MLSnet.com:
“I think the goalie is maybe a bit far out, but we won’t complain at all,” he said. “It was a great shot and it killed the game. Happy days!”
Happy days are indeed here again in Seattle, a city that’s seen its Seahawks and Mariners flounder and its Sonics up and boom out of town in the last 12 months.
Scarf-wearing, vocal partisans have packed Qwest Field for the first two home matches, producing a Toronto FC-like atmosphere for a team that’s looked anything but like the expansion team its supposed to be.
It remains to be seen if the Sounders can continue to ride the wave when they leave the Pacific Northwest and one has to wonder how the slightly built Montero will hold up to the steady flow of physical challenges he’s certain to be receiving.
But after two games, Montero and the Sounders are raising eyebrows here and abroad.
Seattle are suddenly looking like a playoff side and somewhere in Columbia, accountants at Deportivo Cali are smiling at the prospect of a big-money deal for their 21-year-old goal scoring phenom.
At this rate, Montero’s first season in MLS may be his last.
But the ride from here to the end of the current loan deal should be one for the ages.