Sounders begin '13 season without Fredy Montero
When the Seattle Sounders FC opened training camp on Monday morning, the most prolific goal scorer in the short history of the club was in Colombia - where he'll be for at least a year.
The Sounders completed their long awaited loan of striker Fredy Montero to Millonarios FC of the Colombian first division just before training camp began. It was a drawn out process that took a few weeks and included a new wrinkle when the Sounders signed Montero to a multi-year extension, giving the team and player an opportunity to reunite in the future.
But for now, the Sounders are moving on minus the player that scored the first goal in franchise history, along with 59 others during his four seasons in Seattle.
''Fredy's been a very important player to this team,'' Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. ''We've got to see what we can do in terms of replacing him. We're still looking at player options. I think we have some options within our squad.''
Part of the loan went beyond shaking up Seattle's roster or opening up a designated player spot for the Sounders to try and make another high-profile signing. With the World Cup in Brazil just over a year away, the move of Montero back to a Colombian club could increase his chances of being included in the pool of players being considered for the national team.
Schmid and general manager Adrian Hanauer both indicated that Montero's national team status took a hit while he was playing in the MLS.
''We think it gives him a chance to maybe be a little closer to the national team pool. It gets him a possibility of hopefully being seen and back on the roster or on the radar there,'' Hanauer said. ''And it was just something we had talked about. Fredy had wanted to try something new; we'd talked to him about that over the years.''
Montero was often maligned for his lack of production in the playoffs but his regular season performances were the basis for much of Seattle's success as a young franchise. He helped lead Seattle to three straight U.S. Open Cup titles and last season scored a career-high 13 goals in MLS play.
The departure of Montero leaves the Sounders with only six players remaining on their roster from the first season in 2009: defenders Zack Scott, Patrick Ianni and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado; and midfielders Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso and Steve Zakuani.
''It's crazy, but that's the way it is. Every team lost players, every team brought in players, and we've done the same,'' Zakuani said. ''We have to trust the management, they know what they're doing, and like I said, we're all pulling in the same direction trying to achieve our goal to win the whole thing this year and make the moves that's right for them and right for this club.''
Much of Seattle's training camp will be spent trying to find the pieces to pick up for Montero's production. The Sounders do get a full season with striker Eddie Johnson, who is currently in training camp for the U.S. national team. Johnson led Seattle with 14 goals last season, despite missing time with injuries and on national team duty. Other in-house options include Mauro Rosales, David Estrada and Sammy Ochoa.
Then there is Zakuani, who is at full strength for the first time in nearly two years, since breaking a leg in April 2011 against Colorado. Zakuani spent much of last year trying to return to full strength and said Monday he feels the best he has in his professional career.
''We have to find a way to spread his goals around for the team. That's what we've got to do,'' Zakuani said. ''Part of my game is trying to chip in and help the team with goals when I can so I'll work hard on that and try to be a force in that sense.''