Crossing enemy lines: Montero not the first to join an MLS rival
Fredy Montero is Seattle Sounders royalty, an MLS original for the club whose star shone brightest in those first, giddy campaigns.
The Colombian attacker spent four seasons with the Sounders, scoring 47 goals with 34 assists to lead the charge toward three U.S. Open Cup titles, the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals and MLS playoff appearances every year.
And now he's going to Cascadia Cup rival Vancouver? Say it ain't so!
Montero has joined the Whitecaps as a Designated Player on a one-year loan from Tianjin Teda, which a year ago lured him to China from Portugal for €5 million. Montero had left the Sounders in 2013 for loan deals with Millonarios and then Sporting Clube, which purchased his contract in January 2014.
He won’t by any means be the first fan favorite in MLS to suit up for an archrival. It has happened again and again, often with players going straight from one rival to the other, and the poster boy for such a move is none other than Landon Donovan, who is still despised by San Jose fans.
Here are just a few instances of players leaving one club, with fans who love them, for the hated rival:
The future of American soccer signed with Bayer Leverkusen when he was 16, but he never felt comfortable in Germany and spent four years on loan to San Jose, leading the Earthquakes to two MLS Cup titles while evolving into the U.S. national team's biggest star. Leverkusen called him back after the 2004 campaign and, when things weren't any better, quickly sold him to the LA Galaxy, San Jose's hated archrival.
Donovan engineered the move. He wanted to be home, and if Carson was close enough. The Galaxy wanted him, and AEG owned both clubs, so when the deal was made, with MLS paying a $3.5 million transfer fee and Carlos Ruiz shipped to Dallas for the needed allocation spot, Quakes fans were understandably steamed. They thought is was a clear conspiracy.
When Donovan returned to San Jose that June with the Galaxy, he was greeted with obscenities and middle fingers. And that was just at the hotel. At Spartan Stadium, a piñata in his likeness was beaten senseless by Quakes fans, and he was roundly jeered every time he touched the ball. He enjoyed a remarkable decade in L.A., winning four MLS Cup titles and becoming MLS' all-time goals and assists leader, but the ire of San Jose's fans never subsided.
The dreadlocked midfielder is one of those heart-and-soul guys. If he plays for your team, you absolutely love him. If he's the opponent, it's all hate. So imagine how Real Salt Lake supporters felt about the July 2007 trade that brought him to the Wasatch Front from despised Rocky Mountain Cup rival Colorado.
It didn't help that Beckerman, who had enjoyed a rousingly antipathetic relationship with RSL fans during some bitter battles, openly questioned the deal, which brought Mehdi Ballouchy to the Rapids. But once in Utah, he embraced his new role, quickly became a fan favorite, and in the past decade has been one of the critical pieces to a side that almost annually is among the league's elite.
Ballouchy was a talented and well-traveled Moroccan midfielder -- he retired after last season -- who spent four years with Colorado, but was there ever a more lopsided trade in MLS?
THE BLOCKBUSTER DEAL
There have been some dynamite trades through the years in MLS, but this one stands high above the rest. Two days before Christmas in 2002, D.C. United sent Jaime Moreno, Eddie Pope and Richie Williams to the MetroStars, the hated rival, in exchange for star defender Mike Petke, a first-round draft choice, and an foreign allocation.
Moreno at that moment might have been the finest player MLS had seen, and Pope is widely considered the best center back the U.S. has produced. Williams also was a national-teamer, and all three had played pivotal roles during D.C.'s trophy run from 1996 through 1999. Petke, a solid defender who played with a lot of heart, was greatly admired by MetroStars fans. The partings were bittersweet, but neither club had made the playoffs in 2002 -- D.C. had missed out in 2001, too -- so change wasn't out of order.
It looked like a steal for new MetroStars coach Bob Bradley, who had worked with Moreno, Pope and Williams as an assistant at D.C. in 1996 and 1997, but the deal never lived up to its billing. Moreno was hurt most of the year, played in just 11 games, and scored twice, once against D.C., then returned to United for the final seven years of his career. Williams, who had pinballed from D.C. to the MetroStars to D.C. and now back to New Jersey, was a regular in midfield, then retired at season's end. Pope was a backline leader for two and a half years, then went to Real Salt Lake.
Petke spent two and a half years on D.C.'s backline, winning an MLS Cup in 2004, before moving on to Colorado. He spent his final two seasons with the Red Bulls, as the MetroStars are now known, and was the team's head coach in 2013-14.