The Vancouver Whitecaps may not have had the season they hoped for, but one player in particular is helping them finish 2019 on a more positive note.
Fredy Montero has raised his level of performance during the final weeks of the campaign, helping the Whitecaps go unbeaten in their last three matches by making an impact off the bench. The club has won twice and tied once in that stretch, and the Colombian forward has been heavily involved in producing decisive goals in each of those games.
Simply put, Montero has two tallies and one assist in those recent outings.
“He’s a good player in possession, coming into pockets,” Whitecaps head coach Marc dos Santos said earlier this season. “When that happens, we need to have other players in penetrating spots in behind. I think that his experience is important for our locker room. Maybe I used him too much in the beginning as an out-and-out No. 9.”
Montero is currently seeing the field as a super sub and has played just a combined 62 minutes during the past three matches. While he would surely prefer to see the field more and play as a starter, the reserve role has allowed him to end a personal scoreless and assist-less run that stretched over 13 games and back to June.
What caused that type of dry spell is unclear, but the 32-year-old attacker has regained some confidence as of late. He started this recent good run of form by delivering a 91st-minute winner at home vs. the Houston Dynamo on Sept. 14. A week later, Montero scored a headed equalizer at the death vs. the visiting Columbus Crew. Most recently Montero dished a difference-making assist in the 93rd minute of a 4-3 road triumph against the LA Galaxy.
Those contributions and the results they helped pick up may have come too late for a Whitecaps team already eliminated from playoff contention, but it does make for some optimism as the offseason approaches.
“This is about believing and continuing and not giving up because we know this is a long-term project,” Montero told SBI earlier this season. “Right now, we’re at the start of the process in this past. We’ve advanced a lot.
“It’s the same club and same institution but the players and coaches are all new,” he added. “There’s only two, three familiar faces from the last time I was here. We knew this process was going to be difficult.”
Montero might have known he was in for a challenge this season given that the Whitecaps were playing under a new manager and undergoing changes. Nonetheless, the veteran was eager to rejoin the team he previously suited up for during the 2017 campaign in part because he had enjoyed playing and living in Vancouver. The club not only reached the postseason that year, but also made it to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.
That was not the only reason he decided to return, however.
“I liked my time here and when I was in Europe and my contract was about to expire, I knew I needed stability,” said Montero, who has produced eight goals and three assists this campaign. “The last five years in my career have seen me move from Europe to China to Canada and then back to Europe. I wanted stability for me and my family and Vancouver showed that they wanted me for this new project so I accepted it.
“I hope that we keep growing.”
That is the hope that most Whitecaps fans share after having experienced a disappointing 2019 that is sure to end with a last-placed finish in the Western Conference. One final home game remains before the season ends, however, and that means there is one more chance to work on things, one more chance to give the supporters another win, and one more chance for Montero to make an impact.
Regardless of if he comes off the bench or not.