When it comes to Seattle Sounders striker Fredy Montero, Player of the Tournament may be an understatement. The 24-year-old Colombian received the honor from TheCup.us following his performance in the 2011 US Open Cup tournament in which he helped lead Seattle to a third consecutive championship, scoring game-winners in the last three games.
Teammate Osvaldo Alonso and the Richmond Kickers duo of David Bulow and Ronnie Pascale were finalists for the 2011 TheCup.us Player of the Tournament with Montero.
The award is voted on by the staff of the definitive US Open Cup site TheCup.us and a selected panel of members of the North American Soccer Reporters, which also selects the MLS Player of the Week. The panel previously honored Alonso, Pascale, and Bulow as TheCup.us Players of the Round, along with Dominic Oduro (Chicago Fire), Mike Fucito (Seattle) and Zach Lubin (Kitsap Pumas).
After an opening half of a season in which Montero struggled to find the back of the net, Fredy seemed to awaken around the US Open Cup. He has scored the game-winning goal in all three tournament games he has played in, and has found more success across all competitions in the past month, starting with the lone goal in the 1-0 Semifinal win against FC Dallas.
After watching a largely reserve squad advance past a feisty Kitsap Pumas side in the Third Round, Montero became a pivotal part of the Sounders’ Open Cup attack. In the Quarterfinal contest against fellow CONCACAF Champions League side and league-leading Los Angeles Galaxy, he tallied what proved to be the winner in the 25th minute to give the club a two-goal advantage at the time, as the Sounders prevailed 3-1.
The Quarterfinal contest was the first spark for Montero as he caught fire in the second half of the campaign. He scored in both regular season contests on either side of the match.
Unfortunately, he hit another drought that he put well behind him, starting with the Semifinal match against FC Dallas. Scoreless since July 16, he notched the lone tally in an August 30 victory, 1-0, over another Champions League side five minutes before halftime.
While awaiting the Open Cup Final, Montero went on to score in the next two matches, tallying the lone goal in a regular season loss to Real Salt Lake, and netting both strikes in a 2-1 road victory in Costa Rica against Herediano. He added four more goals in league play, scoring twice in Vancouver in a 3-1 win, and twice more at New England in a 2-1 victory. He provided the winner in both contests.
Three days after the victory over the Revolution in which Montero led the rally, he tallied his fifth game-winning goal in just over a month, breaking the deadlocked championship match against the Fire. His 77th minute winner proved enough as Seattle went on to win their MLS-record third consecutive Open Cup title, with Alonso scoring in the final seconds of stoppage time.
While Montero’s 2011 US Open Cup performance may go down as one of his best of his career, his Open Cup success certainly did not start July 13 versus the Galaxy. Montero played in all four 2009 Open Cup contests for Seattle. He scored the opening goal in the 2-1 road victory against DC United in the team’s first championship as an MLS club, earning TheCup.us Player of the Round honors.
Last year, Montero helped the club escape an early round exit in Portland, converting from the spot during the penalty kick tiebreaker as the team advanced 4-3 after a 1-1 draw. He missed the Quarterfinal versus LA, but tallied the game-winner against Chivas USA in the 3-1 Semifinal decision. He went on to start in Seattle’s second championship win, downing Columbus Crew for the 2010 repeat.
With four game-winning goals in his last five US Open Cup matches played, Montero has vaulted into a rarified statistical group in the modern professional era (1995-present) of the tournament, joining five others for second on the career game-winning Open Cup goal list. He and Tomas Boltnar, David Bulow, Paul Conway, Herculez Gomez and Abe Thompson all trail Matthew Delicate, who leads with five. Gomez is the only other player among the seven with a game-winner in a Final. Only 20 other players have a tally of three Open Cup game-winners for their career.
Not surprisingly, Montero is the third consecutive Sounder to be selected as TheCup.us Player of the Tournament. Nate Jaqua earned the honor a year ago after being named Player of the Round twice. Kasey Keller, who is retiring after the season, was the recipient in 2009. Chris Eylander earned the honor in 2008 as a member of the Sounders’ final USL side. Current Sounder Pat Noonan was honored in 2007 as a member of the champion New England Revolution, and Chicago’s Andy Herron was the first honoree in 2006.