TUKWILA — Fredy Montero was back at the Seattle Sounders practice Tuesday, but the franchise leading scorer, who earlier this year left on a loan to Colombian club Millonarios, wasn’t back on the field with his old teammates.
Instead, Montero was just saying hi to his friends, and perhaps saying goodbye to his the Sounders for good. There was always a strong possibility that Montero would not return when Seattle loaned him out to Millonarios, but the odds of him coming back are even smaller now in light of numerous reports that he will transfer to the Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon, one of the top teams in the Portugal’s Primeira Liga, sometime after the international transfer window opens today.
While it is possible the Sounders, who still retain Montero’s rights, could work out another loan, reports in the Portuguese media say a loan price of about 3 Million Euros has been agreed to between the clubs. Montero wouldn’t confirm that any deal was done, but he didn’t give much in the way of a denial either. Montero said nothing was official yet, but when asked about what it would mean to play for a big European club, he spoke as if the deal is all but done.
“It means a lot,” Montero said. “That’s my dream coming true. I hope to do good there. I was waiting for this opportunity the past years, and it is here now. Hopefully I can enjoy the opportunity like I’ve done with my other ones in the past.”
But even if Montero’s time with the Sounders comes to an official end in the next few days or weeks, he doesn’t plan on being a stranger to the Seattle area. Montero’s parents and sisters still live here, and his wife, who is expecting the couple’s first child this fall, will stay in the area until after she has the baby.
“This is my second home,” Montero said. “It is always going to be my second home.”
When Montero left before the season, the hope was that it would be win-win situation for player and club. He wanted a chance to advance his career, both at the club and national team level, and the Sounders, while happy with Montero’s production, saw a potential benefit in shaking things up after four years of playoff disappointment.
Montero still has work to do to make Colombia’s World Cup squad, but the expected move to Portugal indicates his career is on the rise. Meanwhile, the Sounders hope current leading scorer Obafemi Martins — a player they couldn’t have signed with Montero still on the team — helps put the team over the top come playoff time.
“For Fredy the experience of trying something else, I think he had great success here with the Sounders — so for him to be able to try Europe or try in South America again to see where he’s at was a great experience for him,” Sounders sporting director Chris Henderson said. “He was very important for us in our success getting to the playoffs every year and winning Open Cups. I think we’re both happy where we’re at and I think he has great feeling towards the club.”
And while the transfer window likely will see Montero leaving for Europe, there’s a good chance it could see the Sounders make an addition or two as well. General manager Adrian Hanauer has mentioned on several occasions that the Sounders are cap constrained, and they have their limit of three designated players in Mauro Rosales, Shalrie Joseph and Martins, so a splashy signing may not be in the works. Still, Seattle does have some cap room to work with, so some sort of move is hardly out of the question.
“Like every window that opens, it’s really busy and agents are pumping players your way, and we have some guys that we’re looking at,” Henderson said. “We have some cash available to look for players, but we’ll still pursuing the search and (being) really active. We’ll see how it plays out.”
And Henderson wouldn’t rule out that his team could work things out to add a DP if the right player was available. There are almost always ways under Major League Soccer’s complex salary cap rules to add a DP even after a team has three, whether that’s tweaking a contract to change a player’s status, or simply parting ways with a player, as Seattle did when it bought out Christian Tiffert before the season.
“We have some flexibility, not a bunch at the moment,” Henderson said when asked about designated players.
When it comes to adding players during this transfer window, there is usually more talent available now than before the MLS season because most leagues in the world are currently in their offseason. MLS clubs aren’t in a situation of trying to pry a player away from a team that’s in-season, as Seattle did with Martins.
However, adding a player this time of year is also tricky because teams are potentially adding a significant piece to a roster that already has established a bond, and team chemistry could be affected. While Blaise Nkufo, a summer of 2010 signing, was a big contributor that season, he and the team decided to part ways just before the start of the 2011 season.
Of all of Seattle’s significant summer additions, only 2009 signee Leo Gonzalez is still with the team. However, a short tenure doesn’t necessarily make a move a bad one if the player helps the Sounders win in the playoffs.
“When you’re scouting it’s hard to know how a guy’s going to come here and adjust — some of them have worked and some haven’t — you just have to take that chance and do as much work in the background as possible,” Henderson said.
“… It’s a little bit hit or miss whether the guy’s going to stay, but at least the quality we hope will make the difference in us winning a championship. That’s the ultimate goals is winning an MLS Cup, so you want to get a guy who can make a difference.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.