Win prompts debate: Johnson-Montero combo MLS' best?

Eddie Johnson runs vs Vancouver

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SEATTLE — Eddie Johnson isn’t interested in getting into a debate over which forward pairing is the best in MLS.

That doesn’t mean others won’t start to wonder after Johnson and Fredy Montero each scored a goal in the Seattle Sounders’ 2-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. The duo has now combined for 19 goals this season, the fourth-highest total of any forward tandem in the league.

“We aren’t worried about anybody else,” said Johnson, who scored his goal in the 87th minute from a near-perfect cross from Brad Evans. “We’re just worried about ourselves. They can keep scoring goals, we’re just focused on what we’re trying to do here in Seattle, trying to establish our identity as a team.”

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That identity, however, is quickly becoming defined by Johnson and Montero. This was the second time in three games that each player scored a goal and the sixth straight game in which at least one of them has scored. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Sounders have gone 4-1-1 in those games to move into sole possession of third place in the Western Conference.

“I always get a special joy when we win a game and we get a Fredy Montero and an Eddie Johnson goal,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I think it substantiates what we’re trying to do with those two guys. When you start adding it up now, they are among the three or four best combinations in the league in terms of goal production.”

Those goals aren’t just of the stat-padding variety either. Of the eight goals Montero and Johnson have combined to score in the past six games, six have given the Sounders the lead, stood up as the game winner or tied the score.

This time, it was Montero who got the game-winner. After being excused from Friday’s practice to deal with what the team deemed a “personal matter,” Montero started the game coming off the bench.

As he has made a habit of doing this year, he made his impact quickly. Just three minutes after entering in the 61st minute, Montero found himself with the ball about six-yards out after Jeff Parke chested down a Mauro Rosales free kick. Montero controlled the lay-off and then hit it between a pair of Whitecaps defenders.

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Montero has now scored five of his eight goals this season off the bench, despite playing just 130 minutes as a substitute. That haul is good for 3.46 goals per 90 minutes.

Schmid was quick to defuse any ideas that Montero might be more effectively used as a full-time sub.

“He can work over 90 minutes, that’s not an issue,” Schmid said. “He’s obviously focused and wants to win, so he’s champing at the bit when he comes in. It would be no different if we brought Johnson or Rosales off the bench. Those guys have lots of pride.

“I’m not going to let you talk to me into bringing him off the bench,” he added jokingly.

Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.