Sounders begin '13 season without Fredy Montero

Sounders begin '13 season without Fredy Montero

TUKWILA, Wash. (AP) When the Seattle Sounders FC opened training camp on Monday morning, the most prolific goal scorer in the short history of the club was in Colombia - where he'll be for at least a year.

The Sounders completed their long awaited loan of striker Fredy Montero to Millonarios FC of the Colombian first division just before training camp began. It was a drawn out process that took a few weeks and included a new wrinkle when the Sounders signed Montero to a multi-year extension, giving the team and player an opportunity to reunite in the future.

But for now, the Sounders are moving on minus the player that scored the first goal in franchise history, along with 59 others during his four seasons in Seattle.

``Fredy's been a very important player to this team,'' Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. ``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.''

Part of the loan went beyond shaking up Seattle's roster or opening up a designated player spot for the Sounders to try and make another high-profile signing. With the World Cup in Brazil just over a year away, the move of Montero back to a Colombian club could increase his chances of being included in the pool of players being considered for the national team.

Schmid and general manager Adrian Hanauer both indicated that Montero's national team status took a hit while he was playing in the MLS.

``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,'' Hanauer said. ``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.''

Montero was often maligned for his lack of production in the playoffs but his regular season performances were the basis for much of Seattle's success as a young franchise. He helped lead Seattle to three straight U.S. Open Cup titles and last season scored a career-high 13 goals in MLS play.

The departure of Montero leaves the Sounders with only six players remaining on their roster from the first season in 2009: defenders Zack Scott, Patrick Ianni and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado; and midfielders Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso and Steve Zakuani.

``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,'' Zakuani said. ``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.''

Much of Seattle's training camp will be spent trying to find the pieces to pick up for Montero's production. The Sounders do get a full season with striker Eddie Johnson, who is currently in training camp for the U.S. national team. Johnson led Seattle with 14 goals last season, despite missing time with injuries and on national team duty. Other in-house options include Mauro Rosales, David Estrada and Sammy Ochoa.

Then there is Zakuani, who is at full strength for the first time in nearly two years, since breaking a leg in April 2011 against Colorado. Zakuani spent much of last year trying to return to full strength and said Monday he feels the best he has in his professional career.

``We have to find a way to spread his goals around for the team. That's what we've got to do,'' Zakuani said. ``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.''

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.


A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.


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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.