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January 21, 2013 at 3:19 PM

Sounders discuss life after Fredy

The loan of Fredy Montero to Colombia’s Millonarios was the big news story at the start of Sounders FC’s preseason training camp Monday.

Reporters chatted with general manager Adrian Hanauer about the deal, coach Sigi Schmid about where the team goes from here, and midfielder Steve Zakuani about what the players need to do to make up for the loss of the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.

Here are the transcripts:

* * *

ADRIAN HANAUER, general manager

(Can you explain the importance of working out a contract extension before the loan?) “There are two parts to that. A players’ transfer value is always related to the existing contract. Fredy only had two more years left in his (previous) contract, so we just wanted to do it for that reason. And second, we see a world where Fredy could be back in Seattle, so we wanted to put ourselves in a position to have that happen some day if it works out that way.”

(Does the loan affect your ability to bring in a third DP?) “No.”

(How likely would you classify a Montero return?) “I don’t know. Way to difficult to speculate.”

(Is your intention to bring in a third DP?) “Well, the intention is to work on our roster and get it as strong as we can going into the season, but we’re not counting on any specific structure to it and we’re not knocking off any possibilities. So, it’s possible.”

(What does Montero get in this deal that he couldn’t get here?) “We think it gives him a chance to maybe be a little closer to the national team pool. It gets him a possibility of hopefully being seen and back on the roster or on the radar there. And it was just something we had talked about. Fredy had wanted to try something new; we’d talked to him about that over the years. This wasn’t like a quick decision. Millonarios is playing (in Copa) Libertadores — biggest tournament in the world, probably, other than European Champions League — and it gave him a chance to play that tournament.”

(Do you think this team is weaker for the upcoming CCL games or is the intention to be just as ready as you would have been?) “I think the intention is to be just as ready as we would have been. I think it would be naive to say that with Fredy’s production going out and losing Jeff Parke that we’re the same team we were. But we’ve got our work cut out to get us ready for Champions League.”

(Is there any benefit to the club in a move like this, moving on and four years and trying something different?) “Look, it’s been four years. We haven’t quite gotten to the top of the mountain that we’re after. Certainly, reengineering the roster is part of our thinking. It wasn’t like a direct correlation where we thought, ‘OK, let’s move Fredy because that’s going to make us better,’ but it gives us an opportunity to prove that we can restructure the roster and get better, and that’s what we hope to and intend to do.”

(And for the fans that only see the team as weaker after this move?) “Again, all I can say is this was a decision between Fredy and the club, and we’re fine with it. To that previous answer, we’re comfortable that we will have the wherewithal and the intelligence and the ability to ultimately make our team strong and compete for a championship.”

(And for those that see Montero’s loan back to Colombia as a disappointing end?) “I mean, some people probably view it as a disappointing. Some people probably view it as a great move. Some people probably view it in the middle.”

(But surely this wasn’t the ideal exit for Montero from this club?) “I don’t know. We have him under contract, we can bring back here, it actually might be as good an outcome as we could’ve planned. I guess it would’ve been better if Barcelona offered us $100 million for him, but I didn’t have any expectations going into it and I’m very comfortable with the outcome. I’m happy for Fredy and I’m confident that we’ll make our club strong, as well.”

(At what point did it feel like his run with the team was coming to an end?) “Again, we’ve talked with Fredy about this sort of thing from two years into his contract. He’s always wanted an opportunity to try something different, new. Europe is something that we also would like for him and I think he would like, so that’s always a possibility. But the timing seemed reasonable at this point.”

SIGI SCHMID, head coach

(Where does this team look to replace Montero?) “Obviously Fredy has been a very important player to this team, so we’ve got to see what we can do in terms of replacing him. We’re still looking at player options. I think we have some options within our squad. Mauro Rosales has played in that position a couple of times. Steve Zakuani being healthy can push in there. David Estrada obviously had a great start to last season. Sammy Ochoa has played up front, so there are some options that are here within our team.”

(Are you confident with the talent here if you had to start the season?) “Yeah, I feel confident we can open the season with the people we have here. We want to make sure that the guy we bring in is the right guy. We don’t want to feel (like we have) our backs against the wall and make a decision just to make a decision and bring in the wrong guy necessarily. So from that standpoint, we have enough confidence in what we have, but we’re also looking.”

(Is this a move that can also help the team in some way?) “It’s a mutual thing. Players have to be happy and … to be able to jump on the World Cup train for 2014, he needs to get an opportunity again with the Colombian national team. In the time (he was) playing for us, that wasn’t happening. So looking at options for him on loan, which he was interested in, in Europe and so forth were options that we certainly looked at. Then the Millonarios opportunity came along with them playing in the Copa (Libertadores). It was considered a good opportunity in his mind, as well, for him to showcase again for the national team. ’14 is an important World Cup for him age-wise, because ’18 already he’s close to 30 then. He’s been a good servant for our club and, as a result, I think you don’t want to hold players hostage or have them be unhappy. The good news is it’s still possible for him to come back, so if things don’t work out or things don’t pan out the way he hopes they will, we can always renew.”

(How important was getting that contract extension done?) “Obviously Adrian does the majority of that, but having him sign to the extension, knowing that the possibility of him coming back, was important to us.”

(Unlike last year, where Michael Gspurning is the man to replace Kasey Keller, do you think you’ll need a committee of guys to replace Montero’s expected production?) “It’s opportunities. Sometimes when you lose a player, a number of players have to step up to replace him. When I was in L.A., I had to trade to Robin Fraser because of cap issues and it wasn’t, ‘Who was going to replace Robin Fraser?’ It eventually ended up being that Greg Vanney had to do a little bit more. Kevin Hartman did a little bit more. Alexi Lalas came in a did a little bit more. Danny Califf did a little bit more. So everybody together sort of made up for what was missing.”

STEVE ZAKUANI, midfielder

(What’s it like without Fredy here?) “Everybody knows what Fredy was capable of. Fredy could produce things that nobody in the league could produce at times. He was a special player. Fredy was a friend to me because we came to Seattle right around the same time and we shared some great times together. But we’re used to it now, that every year you lose people. We’ve lost a lot of good players over the years; it’s just the turnaround at a professional club. That’s just the way it is. We wish Fredy, of course, the best in his career and for his next step, but we have to focus on what we have next in Seattle — who we have here and try to make it work for us.”

(Is it weird to see how few people are here from Year 1?) “Yeah, from that first year maybe Evans, Ianni, Alonso, Hurtado, myself, and I don’t know if there’s too many more. It’s crazy, but that’s the way it is. Every team lost players, every team brought in players, and we’ve done the same. We have to trust the management, they know what they’re doing, and like I said, we’re all pulling in the same direction trying to achieve our goal to win the whole thing this year and make the moves that’s right for them and right for this club. We need to be able to execute on the pitch. I look at the group and I’m always confident in our group. We’ve got a very good group. We say it every year and we’ll say it again, every year we get better and better in terms of team cohesion.”

(Surprised to here you’re the team’s top active scorer?) “Yeah, I mean I didn’t play for two years, so I’m kind of surprised. One thing more about Fredy — Fredy got goals, so we’ve got to find ways to spread his goals around through the team. That’s what we need to do. I have to step up. … Part of my game is trying to chip in and help the team with goals when I can. So I’ll work hard on that and try to be a force in that sense. But I think I’ve been here for a very long time now, so I kind of know what to expect from the season and myself. I’m excited. I’m really excited about this season.”

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