SEATTLE (AP) — Don’t expect Fredy Montero to suddenly become the constant super-sub that comes off the Seattle Sounders bench, no matter how good he’s been in just that role.
Montero scored in the 64th minute, just two minutes after entering, Eddie Johnson added a clinching goal in the 87th minute and the Sounders beat Cascadia rival Vancouver, 2-0, on Saturday in a key game for positioning in the MLS Western Conference playoff chase.
The only reason Montero was not in the starting lineup against the Whitecaps was due to his needing to miss practice on Friday to tend to a family matter. With one less day of preparation, Seattle coach Sigi Schmid — who said Montero coming off the bench was not punishment — decided Montero would be better served as a sub.
The result was a critical goal that had eluded the Sounders despite numerous earlier chances. After the goal, Montero even mimicked the celebration of Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez following his perfect game with both hands in the air and a leg raised off the ground.
“We’re not going to turn him into super-sub or the 12th man of the year or something like that even though he does well when he comes off the bench,” Schmid said. “Goal scorers are streaky a little bit and I always get a special joy when we win a game and there is a Montero goal and a Johnson goal. I think it substantiates what we’re trying to do with those guys.”
Montero’s goal was his eighth of the season. Mauro Rosales took a free kick from about 35 yards out, but instead of going on net, chipped it into the penalty area. Defender Jeff Parke played the ball off his chest and directed it to Montero, who got just enough of his toe on the shot to bounce it past Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon.
It was Montero’s fifth goal this season as a substitute and four have either tied the game or given Seattle the lead.
Johnson scored on a counter attack off a cross from Brad Evans in the closing minutes for his 11th goal of the season. It was the fourth time this season that Johnson and Montero’s — the Sounders high-profile strikers — have scored in the same game.
“Fredy’s competitive, I’m competitive. I’m pretty sure one of his goals is to be the leading scorer and it’s one of my goals too,” Johnson said. “So if we’re both trying to get more goals it’s good for the team.”
Seattle moved three points clear of the Whitecaps and Los Angeles and into third place alone in the conference standings. Seattle has played two fewer games than both the Whitecaps and Galaxy.
Montero’s goal gave Seattle a deserved result after the Sounders held the better of the scoring chances. Both Osvaldo Alonso and Johnson had point-blank chances earlier in the half that were missed. Johnson badly shanked a volley wide of the net.
But Montero was able to make sure Seattle got the three points it needed, helping erase the bad taste of last week when the Sounders lost the U.S. Open Cup final to Sporting Kansas City on penalties, then dropped a 2-1 decision to league-leading San Jose by surrendering the winning goal three minutes into second-half stoppage time.
Montero scored in the 90th minute goal in Vancouver for a 2-2 draw with the Whitecaps in the first match in May.
Vancouver lost for the third time in its last four league matches and second straight following a 2-0 loss to FC Dallas at home on Wednesday. And the Whitecaps were playing decidedly short-handed. They were already without defender Martin Bonjour, who picked up his sixth yellow card against Dallas on Wednesday and was suspended for the match. Then the league announced Saturday morning that designated player Barry Robson would be suspended for the match for his treatment of an assistant referee in the loss to Dallas.
Vancouver coach Martin Rennie said the team didn’t know until Friday night that Robson would not be available. Additionally, Jay DeMerrit missed his second straight match after suffering a concussion Aug. 11 in the first half against Real Salt Lake.
“That makes it very hard. Already put together all of our training, already picked our 18, already picked our starting lineup, already gone through all of our set plays. That makes it very hard,” Rennie said. “Given all of that, we were a little unfortunate not to get something out of the game.”
The Whitecaps momentarily appeared to pull even in the 81st minute when Darren Mattocks knocked a rebound off Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning into the net, but Hendricks fouled defender Jeff Parke on the play and the goal was waved off.
“I felt like I didn’t push anyone. I saw the ball right there, so I stretched for it, tried to reach for it with my feet,” Mattocks said. “It was pretty unfortunate, but that was ref’s call.”