Fredy Montero maybe never knew it or others purged it out of him: But like it or not, no matter what the formation may show on any given matchday, Montero is an old-school No. 10.
A No. 10 as in a supremely skilled, game-breaker. They may not be the fastest, the tallest or the strongest, but they're capable of that stroke of genius that other players can only dream about.
No. 10s are hot and cold. They're often enigmatic and maddening. They need freedom because they don't fit a specific mold. They can't be judged by the same measure as other players. They're different.
Well, since Montero was counted on for goals (he did score double-digit goals in each of his four seasons), we could instead use the "No. 9.5" label that Michel Platini once coined for Italian Roberto Baggio: the No. 10 who also finds the back of the net.
Whichever label fits him best, it's no secret that tweeners like Montero are dying a slow death in modern soccer, which is increasingly based on athleticism and production. The sport has very little patience any more for the artisans, whose production may not always be reliable or punctual, but whose craft is inimitable.
If Montero's return to Colombia does materialize, MLS will have lost one of its artisans -- the author of some of the best goals in league history. True gems. But these days the Sounders are not interested in art and pretty pictures. They want goals. Goals that win them trophies.
Montero's exit, if it happens, would follow that of No. 10's Sebastián Grazzini (Chicago Fire) and Davide Chiumiento (Vancouver Whitecaps), who departed during the 2012 season. Toronto FC also sent attacking catalyst Joao Plata back to Ecuador in midseason.
Meanwhile, as creative types like Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union) and Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers) suffer through existential crises (where and how do they fit in MLS?), there have been rumors of another potential return to Colombia for FC Dallas playmaker David Ferreira.
Real Salt Lake are desperately trying to cling to their No. 10 Javier Morales and the New York Red Bulls looked far and wide before landing 37-year-old Brazilian Juninho Pernambucano.
Who's left out there? Columbus have their fingers crossed that a healthy Federico Higuaín can regain his form, while Colorado hope Martín Rivero can actually find his.
Before we get too alarmed, what we may very well be witnessing could just be a transition phase in MLS. A changing of the guard. The slighter, softer Montero's making way for a new breed of modern gamebreakers who are built stronger (see Sporting's Graham Zusi), bigger (see Toronto's Luis Silva), tougher (see Philly's Michael Farfan) and show up every game.
But finding another Farfan is easier said than done. Good luck, Seattle.