Vancouver Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos: Maybe we were wrong not to play Fredy Montero more this season

Fredy Montero - Vancouver Whitecaps - cropped in

Heading into Wednesday night’s match against the Montreal Impact, veteran striker Fredy Montero had played just 55 minutes this season for Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

He didn’t attend the MLS is Back Tournament for personal reasons, and came off the bench in Vancouver’s first two games of 2020 before the MLS-wide pause in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Whitecaps had invested in club-record signing Lucas Cavallini, too, and head coach Marc Dos Santos went with other complementary pieces alongside Canada's leading No. 9. 

But then Montero reminded everyone that he’s still a dependable striker, scoring twice in Vancouver’s 3-1 win over Montreal to bounce their Canadian rivals from Canadian Championship final contention. It was the Colombian’s first start in over a year (the last came Aug 31, 2019, against NYCFC), and he delivered.

“When we went to MLS is Back, many didn’t go and then when we got back we felt he wasn’t ready for the first trip,” Dos Santos explained after Montero’s prolonged absence. “Maybe we were wrong. Maybe he had physically enough and we didn’t see that, and maybe we were wrong. Then, every time in training, I was seeing things in Fredy that he wants to contribute, he wants to help, he wants to show, he wants to change things.”

Goal: Fredy Montero scores in the 78th minute

The 33-year-old’s first goal came in the 41st minute, as he cooly sent Clement Diop the wrong way for a 1-0 lead. Then in the 78th minute, with Montreal searching for an equalizer, Montero expertly finished to the far post with a left-footed strike.

Perhaps Montero’s biggest impact on the game came in the 37th minute when Montreal center back Rudy Camacho struck him in the knee, drawing a straight red card. Down a man and needing at least a one-goal victory to defend their Voyageurs Cup trophy, the Impact never recovered.

“He came in and had a fantastic game, he even deserved the hat trick,” Dos Santos said. “He impacted the game with the ball, he impacted the game in possession, he impacted the game in the chances created and the runs in the box. He impacted, and he has to be proud of that and it’s well-done for him.”

Dos Santos said Montero impressed in training and deserved the start, leading the line with Cristian Dajome and Theo Bair out wide, plus David Milinkovic in a supporting role. The Whitecaps head coach also sensed moments of veteran wherewithal, which proved crucial given the need for a bounce back result after losing 4-2 against Montreal last weekend.

Red card: Rudy Camacho sent off

Montero’s now in his seventh MLS season, starting with a 2009-12 stint with the then-expansion Seattle Sounders FC. His form produced a move to Portuguese powerhouse Sporting CP before he permanently returned to MLS in 2019 when signing a two-year deal with Vancouver. 

Cavallini’s eventual return from suspension could complicate Montero’s minutes, though he clearly impressed in a long-awaited start, showing he can still cause trouble for MLS defenses.

“We wanted to play him as kind of a false nine that gets away from the center backs to create space for others,” Dos Santos said. “At the same time when he arrived late, he arrived in good spots. We didn’t want him to be with the center backs and just stay there. Fredy did everything right today, and we have to give credit to his game — on the ball he was solid, in the box he was solid, and he definitely allowed the team to get the three points."