HARRISON, N.J. – Message sent, and message received.
The message that things must change was sent by coach Sigi Schmid before Sounders FC’s game with New York Saturday, when he left last-season’s leading scorer, Fredy Montero, out of the starting lineup.
And in the 85th minute, Montero indicated that the message was received as he booted home a goal with both technique and toughness to give Seattle a 1-0 win over the MLS Eastern Conference leaders.
“I told him yesterday: ‘You’re not starting, but the minutes you do play are going to be the most important minutes of the game, and you can impact the game,’ ” Schmid said. “And he said ‘Hey, I want to make a difference when I come in the game.’ And he did.”
Just seven minutes after coming on as a reserve, Montero took a lofted Brad Evans pass just inside the penalty area. Montero’s first touch was with his chest, and his second was with his thigh.
After the ball reached the ground, he muscled through a challenge from behind by Red Bulls defender Mike Petke and finished with his left foot, low and inside of goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul.
“I’m sure Fredy wasn’t happy sitting in the bench,” Schmid said. “And it’s not a secret he wants to be out on the field, he wants to play. But I think he came in and he battled and he fought right away. And he has that ability, that little bit of skill, that little bit of calm at the key moment, and he finished a great goal. It was a great ball by Brad and a great goal.”
Exactly one week earlier, Schmid had indicated that changes were coming. And without naming names, signals pointed to his dissatisfaction with Montero.
Schmid cited the need for determination in the penalty area, for aggressiveness in front of the goal, for a higher work rate and for more grit.
Seven days later, he turned that into action, submitting a lineup card that started Sanna Nyassi for Montero. Patrick Ianni started in midfield because of an injury to Osvaldo Alonso.
Evans provided what might have been his best performance as a Sounder, with an unbelievable work rate that had him seemingly going from end to end until he finally was taken out in the 89th minute.
“He’s an unsung hero,” Schmid said. “He leaves his lungs out on the field for the guys, and he doesn’t stop until he can’t go anymore.”
The result ended a four-game winless streak for the Sounders (3-3-3), and it moved them out of the Western Conference cellar. The Red Bulls (5-3-0) suffered their first loss at Red Bull Arena, where a crowd of 17,900 watched.
More quotes and game notes are available at blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer.