RENTON – Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer has said Fredy Montero can be the best player in Major League Soccer.
The club backed up that boast Wednesday by announcing that Montero has been signed to a multi-year contract as a designated player.
“We are very excited today,” Hanauer said at a press conference at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. “This young man has been a very important part of our franchise from day one, on and off the field. His production speaks for itself. He’s becoming one of the best players in our league. I think he can be the best player in our league, bar none.”
Following its usual policy, the club did not announce the terms or length of the contract, although Hanauer referred to it as “long-term.”
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But Hanauer also reminded that soccer is a sport of global movement, and said Seattle would listen if another club proposed a deal that benefited the Sounders and Montero.
The press conference marked a rare occasion when Montero addressed the media in English.
“I just want to say thank you, Adrian, thank you, Sounders, and thanks to all of the fans for supporting me,” he said. “I’m very happy because this is an honor to be with the Sounders for many years. And I want to win many championships for the team, for my friends, for my family, for everybody who likes the Sounders.”
The 23-year-old forward from Colombia has won the club’s Golden Boot award as leading scorer in each of his two seasons, providing 22 goals and 17 assists in 56 league matches. Only two MLS players have more over that period: Conor Casey of Colorado and Jeff Cunningham of Dallas.
Hanauer said that while Montero received a raise, his designated player status will allow him to count less heavily against the club’s salary cap than he did last season.
Still, the general manager admitted that after veteran goalkeeper Kasey Keller signs his new contract as expected, other offseason deals will likely involve less expensive players.
“We are cap constrained, certainly,” Hanauer said. “ Probably it would be more of role players, players who can fill in obviously for our (expansion draft losses of midfielders Nathan Sturgis and Sanna Nyassi). We will keep looking.”
In other news, Hanauer said:
• He likes the makeup of the team, especially if everyone returns healthy.
• The club encourages its young players to play overseas, as with midfielder Steve Zakuani who is training at Everton. Zakuani has three years remaining on his Seattle contract.
• Defender Tyrone Marshall will be available in the MLS’ re-entry draft of veterans next week. Hanauer didn’t know if other Sounders veterans would be exposed.
• Among recent acquisitions, Hanaeur sees former Toronto forward O’Brian White – obtained in an expansion-draft-day trade – as a goal-scoring threat.
• Season ticket sales are on pace with last season, and the club hopes to increase Qwest Field capacity, possibly by opening the Hawks Nest in the north end.
• There has been no firm decision about using the existing FieldTurf again next season. However, Hanauer said new technology has fluffed up the turf in a way that could make it better in 2011.
• Seattle, Portland and Vancouver are working with MLS to make more than the current 150 tickets available to traveling fans.
• The “chances are good” for the United States being awarded the 2022 World Cup when FIFA announces its decision at 7 a.m. today. A Sounders FC-sponsored viewing party at FX McRory’s near Qwest Field starts at 6:30 a.m. The announcement will be carried live on Fox Soccer Channel and ESPN.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer