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Updated Monday, January 21, 2013 at 10:31 PM

Sounders officially loan Montero to Colombian champion Millonarios

By Joshua Mayers
Seattle Times staff reporter

TUKWILA — Sounders FC, for the second time in as many years, opened preseason training camp with a club legend to replace.

Last season, goalkeeper and hometown hero Kasey Keller had just retired.

The notable absence this year was forward Fredy Montero, the franchise's all-time leading scorer, who was loaned Monday to Colombian league champion Millonarios for the 2013 season.

While the move had been expected for several weeks, the void won't be any easier to fill. Montero, a three-time MLS All-Star and 2009 Newcomer of the Year, holds team records in career goals (47), assists (34), games (119) and shots (411).

"Fredy could produce things that nobody in the league could produce, at times," said midfielder Steve Zakuani. "He was a special player."

Montero's loan was announced with a twist, as the Sounders also signed the 25-year-old Colombian to a multiyear contract extension.

General manager Adrian Hanauer explained that a longer contract increases Montero's transfer value if he is bought by a European club, for example. But there was another reason, as well.

"We see a world where Fredy could be back in Seattle," Hanauer said.

An intriguing thought, but for now both Montero and the Sounders are moving on.

Montero, according to Hanauer and coach Sigi Schmid, had expressed a desire for a new start, hoping to catch the eye of Colombian national team coach Jose Pekerman. Steady production in MLS over four seasons hasn't resulted in an international call-up since August 2009.

Playing in Europe has also been a lifelong goal for Montero, who was unveiled to Colombian media Monday. Millonarios' participation in Copa Libertadores this season, a tournament for the top club teams in South America, could be a launching pad for the forward's career.

"Players have to be happy," Schmid said of losing Montero.

"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 Sounders hold an option to recall Montero if needed, but they have already looked into signing a replacement. Monday's move opened up a designated-player slot, meaning Seattle has the flexibility to bring in a high-priced international superstar.

Until then, Schmid said he's confident in internal options for replacing Montero, which include Mauro Rosales and Zakuani.

"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," Hanauer said.

NOTES

• The Sounders listed 14 invitees on their preseason camp roster: Blair Gavin, Ross LaBauex, Marvin Angulo, Guy Essame, Manuel Asprilla, Philip Lund, Jonas Rasmussen, Jose Cuevas, Justin Davis, Cody Ellison, David Opoku, Travis Bowen, Isaiah Schafer and Doug Herrick.

Forward/midfielder Cordell Cato, whose contract option was declined by Seattle after last season, is listed on the roster but wasn't at practice Monday. A team spokesman indicated his status will be resolved in the next few days.

• The Sounders hold five picks in Tuesday's four-round supplemental draft. Seattle has its four natural selections plus another in the first round acquired in a trade that sent defender Jeff Parke to Philadelphia.

• Just six "original" Sounders remain from the team's 2009 opener: Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Zach Scott and Zakuani.

• Defender Andrew Duran is the only member in camp affected by injury as doctors haven't cleared him for full participation yet due to an ACL tear last year.

Defender Patrick Ianni (calf) and forward Babayele Sodade (knee) were out with injuries at the end of last season but were not affected Monday.


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