TORONTO – Fredy Montero stepped onto the pitch at BMO Field on Saturday with a six-game goal-less streak – one short of his career high.
Then he added 89 more scoreless minutes against Toronto FC.
But in the 90th minute he drilled a 28-yard free kick inside the near post. That goal not only ended Montero’s drought, but it gave Sounders FC a 1-0 win and the first shorthanded victory in club history.
“I was working very hard to get a goal,” Montero said. “Today, I just want to say ‘Thanks, God, for that amazing goal.’ Those three points help the team to get close to the playoffs.”
After a listless first half, Seattle fell a man down in the 49th minute when central defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado drew a second yellow card for falling into the legs of Toronto midfielder Alen Stevanovic.
It was the ninth time the Sounders have been forced to play shorthanded, and their record over those first eight stood at 0-6-2.
The previous incident was Aug. 14, 2010, when Leo Gonzalez was sent off. However, Gonzalez’s red card came in the third minute of stoppage time, so his team played only seconds without him.
Seattle faced a long 41 minutes Saturday without the 2009 All-Star. And those minutes figured to seem all the longer because the Sounders hadn’t played especially well up to that point.
“We moved into a 4-4-1,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “Then we brought in Alvaro (Fernandez), and we told him to tell Fredy just to drop back … and not to pressure their center backs, just to let their center backs have the ball. … We told both (Erik) Friberg and Alvaro when they went into the game, ‘We’re looking to get corners, we’re looking to get free kicks, we’re looking to get set pieces: Take your time. Each one of those is an opportunity.’”
The Sounders’ first opportunity of the night had come in the second minute when Mike Fucito was open deep inside the penalty area. But the angle was sharp, and he fired it wide across the goalmouth.
“I struck it well; I just pulled it a little bit,” he said. “I knew I wanted to go to that far post. I didn’t want to hit the post, but if that’s an inch to the left maybe that’s in.”
It wasn’t, however, and after that Toronto took control before its home crowd of 21,839.
Forward Joao Plata regularly gave defender James Riley problems down the left side. But the Reds’ best chance may have come in the 82nd minute when Javier Martina took a cross over goalkeeper Kasey Keller and smashed it off the post. The rebound also went to Toronto, but the follow-up was sent into the south stands.
“The little kid (Martina) came in on the outside and smashed it across,” Keller said. “… It hit the post, went back across the goal, and I don’t know what happened after that – I was still diving from the first one.”
Seven minutes later, Toronto’s frustrations grew as Montero’s strike took what would have been a disappointing draw and turned it into a devastating loss.
The Reds fell to 2-6-9, while the Sounders moved to 6-4-7, giving them 25 points exactly halfway through their league season.
“If my math is right, 25.5 is a point-and-a-half a game, so we’re right around the goal that we set for ourselves,” Schmid said. “Now we have to get ready for next week to get to work. We’ve got two games at home and then Open Cup after that. Our schedule gets really heavy, and our depth is going to be tested.”
The Sounders face visits from New York on Thursday and New England one week from today.
But first comes the long flight home today – one that Montero said he made a little more pleasant for his teammates.
“We have time to sleep,” he said, “and dream about this game.”