SEATTLE – Fredy Montero’s earned a sparkling reputation over his first two seasons in the league as one of the most dynamic young strikers in MLS and a face of the Seattle Sounders franchise.
And less than 24 hours ahead of the First Kick of the 2011 season, one of the defenders tasked with somehow putting the clamps down gave the Colombian a new title.
“He’s the ultimate goal-poacher,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said Monday. “Especially on set pieces and that sort of thing. He can turn on a dime and find little spots, but he’s always poaching out goals and finding little seams. The second you switch off, he’s right there to smash it in.”
“He’s done that to us a few times…” Dunivant added. “He’s kind of the total package.”
Just how the Galaxy defense shuts down Montero on Tuesday night is one of the biggest storylines for the season opener at Qwest Field, where he’s scored 14 goals in 29 league games since his debut in 2009.
[inline_node:327630]And that first glimpse of Montero was enough to put the league on notice. The Sounders' Designated Player scored two goals and added an assist in the Sounders’ 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls in their inaugural game at Qwest, then added a goal and an assist in the team’s 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union in the 2010 season opener in Seattle.
Simply put, Montero traditionally thrives on the pitch at Qwest and has especially impressed in mid-March, when some other players are still settling into their early season routine.
And the Galaxy know it. They limited Montero to seven total shots and kept him off the scoreboard during two matches in the Western Conference semifinals last season, but they’re still plenty wary of the danger Montero might bring in front of a packed house on Tuesday night.
When asked if the “goal-poacher” title fits Montero heading into his third year in the league, Galaxy manager Bruce Arena took a more diplomatic approach, but still stressed he challenges he can bring.
“I would say Juan Pablo Angel is more of [a goal poacher],” Arena said. “Fredy’s a playmaker as well, and probably has more dimensions as an attacking player just sitting in front of the goal and sniffing out opportunities. He’s a fabulous player.
“Wherever he is on the field,” Arena added, “we’ve gotta be aware of him.”
Injuries to Sounders forward Blaise Nkufo and midfielder Steve Zakuani could put even more of the offensive onus Tuesday night on Montero, who had scored just one goal in three regular-season games against the Galaxy before he was shut out during the 2010 postseason.
“I’m not sure we had success against him in particular, to be honest,” Arena said. “Like any good player, we’re aware of him when he touches the ball and where he’s playing away from the ball, and we just respect the fact that he’s a dangerous player.”