Despite delivering one of their best attacking efforts of the season, as well as enjoying massive encouragement from a CenturyLink throng of 44,575 Sunday night, the Sounders couldn’t overcome the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Western Conference playoffs and exited the postseason a 2-1 second-leg winner, but a 4-2 aggregate-goal loser.
Apart from the maximum effort the Sounders delivered, especially in the first 45 minutes, the most telling development – and perhaps the most significant – occurred in the 73rd minute when Sounders coach Sigi Schmid pulled Fredy Montero, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, and replaced him with David Estrada.
Schmid’s move caught both TV announcers, Adrian Healey and Taylor Twellman, by surprise because Montero is the team’s highest-paid player and one of two, along with Eddie Johnson, considered most likely to score a goal in a game in which the Sounders needed all the goals they could get.
“That says a lot,” Twellman said as the cameras caught Montero exiting the pitch.
What said more about Montero was that when he went to the Seattle bench, he took with him a resume showing exactly no goals in 10 playoff games covering 829 minutes. A NFL quarterback wouldn’t have a career left if he went that long without generating a scoring drive.
A Colombian who has been with the Sounders since their 2009 inception, and one of the club’s more popular players, Montero possesses considerable skill. He is also a player given to sudden streaks of offensive creativity but prolonged lapses into lethargy. Montero doesn’t always come to play and too many times does not appear to have his head in the game.
The Sounders pay Montero, one of the team’s three designated players, a significant sum of money to come up big in big games. But in the biggest matches, he never has.
When Schmid was asked about Montero’s playoff failures last week, he largely defended his forward, saying that a lot of that failure can be attributed to opponents keying on Montero and denying him scoring opportunities.
Funny how the same type of opponents’ focus doesn’t seem to deter L.A.’s Robbie Keane, the man most responsible for eliminating Seattle from the 2012 playoffs, from coming up big in the postseason.
Keane has scored five playoff goals, including two and an assist in the first leg against Seattle. In the second leg, he created a penalty-kick opportunity by booting the ball into Adam Johansson’s hand, and then converted the ensuing PK.
Montero has had four years’ worth of playoffs to prove himself worthy of designated player status. He hasn’t cut it. We think it’s time the Sounders find a way to unload Montero and move in a different direction. Agree or disagree?