VANCOUVER, British Columbia — As preseason gets underway, the Vancouver Whitecaps’ attack already looks new and improved.
Blockbuster signing Lucas Cavallini is expected to lead the line after the club spent a record $6 million on a transfer last month from Club Puebla in Liga MX. The Canadian striker brings a new dimension to a Vancouver attack that managed a conference-worst 37 goals last season.
Cavallini will likely start in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation, and the Whitecaps would like to flank their new star striker with some versatile wingers.
So, what does that mean for 2019 leading goal-scorer and striker Fredy Montero?
Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos insists Montero remains an important piece. Asked about Montero being at present for the opening day of preseason even though Cavallini is expected to start in his spot, Dos Santos quickly rejected any suggestion that Montero’s standing within the team is in doubt.
“Guys, I don’t know what you read or who you speak with,” Dos Santos said. “Honestly, it’s phenomenal for you guys to tell me that Fredy’s here. Fredy has a two-year contract. He’s our player.
“Where he slots, he slots, working everyday, competing with other guys — maybe in moments where we’re in a 4-2-3-1, when that happens, him being an option — him competing with Cavallini. I don’t know where it came from that there was even a chance of him not being here.”
But the Colombian striker faces an uncertain role with Vancouver. With Cavallini expected to be the go-to guy for Vancouver, where exactly does Montero fit in?
“I feel comfortable inside the field, as long as I’m attacking,” Montero said, in an exclusive with Pro Soccer USA. “I can play on the wing, in the middle, on top. It doesn’t matter for me as long as I’m on the field.”
In 32 appearances last season, Montero scored eight goals and added three assists. Towards the end of the season he often found himself coming in off the bench late in games as a super sub.
“Super sub,” Montero laughed. “That’s what I did the last five, six games last season. In this stage I don’t want to prove anything anymore. I know my value and what I’m capable of. It’s about helping the team. It’s my last year on my contract and I want to enjoy it as much as I can.”
What happens after this season is unclear.
The 32-year-old Montero and his wife are co-owners of Santo Coffee Co. in Seattle and the Montero family regularly makes trips from their Vancouver home to a home in Bellevue, Washington. Having a business, family, friends, and maintaining an active presence in church has meant splitting time between both Cascadia cities.
How much easier would it be for Montero and his family if he played for the Seattle Sounders?
“I mean obviously it’s true,” Montero acknowledged. “However, it won’t be fair to the Whitecaps fans. Right now I’m here in this city and I want to focus on what I can give back to the team because they trust me. Once again, my mind is set to get ready for the season.”
The MLS trade window will open on February 13, and if Vancouver is going to make a trade within the league, a veteran with Montero’s goal-scoring track record could be an option.
Although Dos Santos insists Montero will stick around, the striker did earn a $968,000 salary last season, which would be a lot for a player coming off the bench, if that’s how the Whitecaps plan to use him.
Montero, however, isn’t worried about the possibilities and is taking it all in stride.
“I’m comfortable here. I’m happy to be back,” Montero said. “That’s what I thought a year ago when I signed a two-year deal with the club. I’m going with the flow right now. It’s about getting ready for the season and that’s what I’m focused on.”