Miguel Montaño was born in 1991 – the same year Sigi Schmid coached his 12th UCLA soccer team to an 18-4 record.
Now coaching Sounders FC, Schmid isn’t about to hold youth against Montaño, his newest player – and at age 18, his youngest.
“An old coach of mine said there’s good players and bad players, not old players and young players,” Schmid said. “Certainly, you realize he’s a young player. But at the end of the day, you get on the field because you have an ability to play.”
Montaño has shown that ability for most of his life. He made his professional club debut at age 15 with Colombia’s Deportivo Palmira. He played with three teams over the next three seasons, including last season when he left his native country for the first time to play at Quilmes Athletico Club of Argentina.
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That’s where he caught the eye of the Sounders, and things began happening quickly. He started training with the MLS club March 17, officially signed his contract April 30 after receiving his work permit, and was on the bench in uniform Saturday when the Sounders played to a 1-1 draw with Columbus.
“It’s a great happiness that I’m feeling right now,” Montaño said through an interpreter Thursday, after training with his teammates for the Los Angeles Galaxy’s visit on Saturday. “This is the reason I came to Seattle. I fought really hard in the first month that I was here to show my skills, show what I can do, and it worked out. It was great for me to be on the bench last week and start playing as a Sounder.”
His actual playing debut might not be far off.
“If you bring a young player in, he’s got to be able to get on the field for you and do things,” Schmid said. “If he’s not on the field, it’s not because he can’t contribute, it’s because you have somebody who’s better that’s ahead of him. So right now we’ve got some guys that maybe are a little bit better and have been out there on the field. But I’m very confident about his ability to contribute.”
Montaño is 5-foot-11, lean and fast. And at his previous levels of competition he provided something the Sounders need: goals.
Last season, he scored 13 times in 19 games for Quilmes Athletic Club, which is on the fifth tier of the Argentine development structure.
Last month, he made his first international appearance for the Colombian under-20 national team, coming on as a reserve in a 1-1 draw with Ecuador.
On Thursday he said:
• Even before the Sounders made contact, he had thought of MLS as a logical step for his career, having been told by his agent that it is “a great league to play in.”
• MLS is different from Colombian soccer in that there is more movement away from the ball. In Colombia, he said “one dominates the ball a lot more.”
• Playing for his national team was “an unforgettable experience. It’s the dream of every soccer player to wear the color of your country and to represent your homeland.”
• He had confidence when he arrived in Seattle, but his experience with the national team added to that.
• He feels comfortable being a reserve for now, but believes he has the potential to become a starter.
Publicly, the Sounders have indicated that such a significant role could be at least a season away.
However, Schmid stressed that will depend on Montaño’s performance, not age.
“I think he’s comfortable with the team now, he’s comfortable with the players, he’s comfortable in this country,” Schmid said. “His opportunity, I think, will come. When ... that’s something we have to see exactly, because we want to present him with a good opportunity. But certainly there’s a lot of things he has done in training that I like.”
Manchester United will provide the opposition for the MLS all-stars July 29 at Reliant Stadium in Houston. ... MLS has called a press conference for this morning and is expected to welcome Montreal as its 19th franchise, likely beginning play in 2012.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer