Nine playoff games, zero goals.
Those are the rather stark numbers on Fredy Montero’s stat sheet following another goal-less performance in the Seattle Sounders’ 3-0 loss to the LA Galaxy in the first leg of the Western Conference Championship on Sunday.
Montero was held to just one shot against the Galaxy, the second time in this postseason that he’s been held to fewer than two shots. During the regular season, Montero never took fewer than two shots in any game he started, setting a career-high with 13 goals.
“Obviously there are streaks and goalscorers are streaky,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid told reporters when asked about Montero. “He’s working hard, he’s trying to get some looks, certainly, but teams focus a little harder in the playoffs and it’s been harder for him to find space.”
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Could the lack of postseason success be getting into Montero’s head?
“Hopefully not, he’s pretty good that way,” Schmid said. “But at some point you start thinking about it.”
The Sounders tried to take a slightly different approach in this game. With Eddie Johnson deemed not fit enough to start, Schmid elected to go with Montero as a lone striker. The hope was that the extra midfielder would help the Sounders keep possession.
While the Sounders were able to win the possession battle, it came at the cost of not being able to create much danger in the offensive third. Montero had a particularly rough time, as he was held without a single touch inside the penalty area. The Colombian’s only shot came from about 35 yards out and was blocked before it created any kind of danger.
“We came in with a mentality to try to keep the ball and try to play high,” Montero explained to MLSsoccer.com after the defeat. “I thought we were doing a really good job until they scored the first goal.”
Schmid elected to keep the same tactical approach in the second half, and said he planned to swap Montero for Johnson around the 60th minute. As Johnson prepared to come in, the Galaxy scored their second goal. A couple of minutes after Montero exited, LA made it 3-0.
“We wanted him to push as hard as he could for 60-65 [minutes] and then we were going to make a decision as to how we were going to make changes,” Schmid said of Montero. “At the time when we were going to make the sub, we thought the rest of it was going alright and if we could get some fresh legs up high, we could possibly jump on some things.”
Johnson didn’t prove to be any more effective as a lone striker, failing to get a shot off in his 25 minutes. He was in no mood to offer excuses, afterward.
“If I’m out there, whoever’s out there, it’s the playoffs,” Johnson said. “You have to do the job."
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.