SEATTLE — Fredy Montero made his presence known within seconds of stepping onto the field Wednesday night for Seattle Sounders FC.
Montero, a 60th-minute substitute, scored on his first touch giving Seattle a 1-0 win over El Salvador’s Isidro Metapan in the first match of a CONCACAF Champions League preliminary-round series in front of an unusually light crowd of 17,228 fans at Qwest Field in Seattle.
Mere seconds after stepping onto the field as a substitute for starter Nate Jaqua, Montero received a pass from midfielder Osvaldo Alonso on a free kick, took one touch and lofted an ambitious attempt toward the Metapan goal.
Metapan goalkeeper Misael Alfaro — a veteran of 42 international games for the El Salvadoran national team before retiring in 2006 — saw the ball dip and bounce in front of him before atrociously mishandling the bounce and allowing Seattle’s only goal to creep across the line.
“It was a 3-point goal,” Montero said in Spanish through a translator. “We always try to make it beautiful. Maybe this time it wasn’t so beautiful, but (it was) incredibly important.”
While sitting on the bench, Montero said he noticed the 39-year-old Alfaro playing farther out of the goal — which was why he attempted the shot.
“Usually keepers with such good technique (as Alfaro) tend to play a little bit more forward,” Montero said. “I observed that and I wanted to test him early on, that’s why I took the shot and good thing it went in.”
Metapan, winners of the El Salvadoran Primera Division Clausura last season, rarely threatened on goal as the Sounders tilted the field and controlled the run of play throughout to take the aggregate-goal series advantage.
“Losing always hurts, but we knew that it was going to be a difficult game,” Metapan head coach Edwin Portillo said in Spanish through a translator. “We need just to recover and move on.”
While noting that if Alfaro hadn’t misjudged Montero’s ball “we’d be having a different conversation right now,” the coach added that no one is vilifying the keeper for his gaffe.
“Everyone is giving him moral support,” Portillo said. “The ball certainly did move and he was not very well positioned, but at the same time it was a surprising kick (from Montero).”
Seattle travels to San Salvador, the nation’s capital, for an August 3 second-leg matchup with Metapan at the 44,000-seat Estadio Cuscatlan. Metapan’s home stadium was declared unfit for the competition.
Sporting a starting lineup devoid of several regulars, notably goal threats Montero and Steve Zakuani, Sounders FC relied on its speed down the right flank with Sanna Nyassi leading the charge in the first half.
Defender James Riley threaded a couple through-balls to Nyassi, who had one dangerous cross headed wide and another cleared out of the box.
Nyassi and Alonso, a 14th minute substitute for starting midfielder Peter Vagenas, maintained near-constant pressure on Metapan’s back line with threatening runs and free kicks. Vagenas left after injuring his right quadriceps while delivering a corner kick.
Seattle, which earned a berth in the CCL with its U.S. Open Cup triumph last year, outshot Metapan 15-2 (5-1 on goal) in the game. The team’s combined for 37 fouls and seven bookings. Metapan conceded 20 fouls, allowing numerous free kicks for Sounders FC.
Seattle also had eight corner kicks, but still could manage just one goal as Metapan was content with playing for a tie.
“We had chances to score more goals, we’re disappointed that we didn’t get more,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s most important not to give up a goal at home. We have the lead, they need to score a goal, they can’t sit back (in the next game).”
Schmid knows what awaits the team, as it first travels to San Jose for a Major League Soccer match Saturday, before Tuesday’s rematch with Metapan.
“It’s going to be a hostile environment,” Schmid said. “It’s going to be a situation where we need our veteran players down there to make sure we get the result we need to get to advance.”
Montero is expected to play both on Saturday and Tuesday as the 23-year-old Colombian continues his streak of good form on the field.
“I subbed him (Montero) on and I had just turned (around) so I didn’t see the shot,” Schmid said, adding that he only saw Alfaro bobble the ball on Montero’s goal. “That’s what happens. You take your eyes off him for a second and he scores a goal.”