VANCOUVER, B.C. – It's been an absence of nearly four-and-a-half years, but Fredy Montero is back scoring goals again in Major League Soccer.
The Colombian scored his first MLS goal since October 2012 on Saturday night in the Vancouver Whitecaps' 4-2 win over the LA Galaxy, pouncing on a rebound to fire the Whitecaps level in the 66th minute.
It was a crucial goal for the 'Caps, and a minute later Montero, who came on as a substitute at halftime, earned an assist on Matias Laba's go-ahead strike. There was no looking back for Vancouver after that, as the Whitecaps stormed to their first win of the new season in their fourth match.
"I just came in and tried to do my job, what the coach told me to do," Montero told reporters after the match. "Try to find space, move forward and when I had the chance, score. For me it was a good position in the box and [Cristian] Techera was going 1-on-1, he shot on goal and the goalkeeper saved it. I was there took one touch and just scored the goal."
Montero still isn't fully fit and has only played limited minutes for Vancouver so far this season, starting just one of the Whitecaps' four MLS matches.
It was a tough decision for head coach Carl Robinson to leave him out of the starting lineup for such a big game, but with one eye on having him healthy for Wednesday CONCACAF Champions League semifinal second leg against Tigres (10 pm ET on TSN1 and Facebook.com/concacafcom), the 'Caps coach felt it was the right decision.
When fellow Whitecaps forward Erik Hurtado limped off at halftime, with what later turned out to be a foot contusion that saw him leave the locker room on crutches, Robinson's hand was forced and it paid off richly.
"He picked up an injury, a hamstring injury," Robinson revealed about Montero in his postgame press conference. "He trained for one-and-a-half sessions [leading into the match]. If I throw him in and he gets a reoccurrence of the injury, I’m not doing my job correctly. So I spoke to Fredy, he wanted to play.
"I didn’t plan on bringing him on for 45 minutes, it was maybe 30 minutes. But at halftime, the way the game was, we needed a goal. He’s a goalscorer. Erik did a great job tiring them out. But Fredy likes to be in the box and score goals, and it made a difference because he brought a calmness to our team."
Montero's performance was already good news for the Whitecaps, who finally look to have the clinical finisher in the box they've lacked for a couple of seasons now. Even better was the Colombian coming through the 45 minutes unscathed.
"I feel much better," Montero said of his health status. "Whenever I’m able to play, I will. Today, we just wanted to take it easy because we have many games coming, and I had the opportunity to play 45 minutes. I decided with the coaching staff to play the second half, it was good for us."
Montero knows he will be a key piece for the Whitecaps against Tigres if they are to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg, but he's confident they have what it takes to get the job done.
"Well for us it’s going to be super important what we bring to the game," Montero said. "We don’t worry about what they’re going to do. We know they are a top-level team in Central America, and North America, and we are looking to score the first goal as soon as possible. Then we have to believe that we can go and score the second one."