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Will Montero return for Wednesday’s USOC semi? Only if he finds his step up-y-ness

Seattle Sounders v Real Salt Lake

SANDY, UT - JULY 4: Fredy Montero #17 of the Seattle Sounders holds off Kenny Mansally #29 of Real Salt Lake during the first half of an MLS soccer game July 4, 2012 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

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Something weird happened last week. The world decided to stop liking Fredy Montero. Again.

The ire culminated with Jonah Freedman’s curiously themed piece at The thesis is in the title: Fredy Montero needs to step up, already. Those 38 goals he’s scored in just over three years of work in the league? Not stepping up, and neither are those 30 lazy, selfish assists. Sure, the list of players who’ve been better over that stretch is pretty thin (and carry names like Landon and DeRo). And true, Seattle has been in the postseason throughout the 24-year-old’s time in King County. And yes, he’s been their attacking focal point throughout, but let’s be honest: There is a distinct lack to step up-y-ness to his game. I think this recent slump proves that (he’s now scoreless in 523 minutes, per link below).

More proof Montero’s bad: He saw pine for Saturday’s match against Colorado (you know, Steve Zakuani’s return game). Montero did come on late, replacing the yellow card-carrying Eddie Johnson, but the selection raised questions. Was this just a night off? An attempt to break a slump? Was it a performance-driven move? Or, as some have tried to frame it, a message? Does Sigi Schmid also desire some step up-y-ness?

Thanks to Sounders beat man Joshua Mayers (go-to on all things SSFC), we know that Occam’s razor fits this conundrum:

“Sometimes taking a step back opens up your eyes,” said coach Sigi Schmid, explaining Montero’s benching. “Sometimes it’s good to get a little bit of a break, because he’s played a lot of minutes and played a lot of games for us.

“I know immediately the reaction is, ‘Oh, it must’ve been a punishment,’ or, ‘Something must’ve happened,’ or something like that, but no. It’s just a different way of, ‘Hey, let’s look at it. Let’s re-evaluate it.’ ”

Another interesting caveat, from Mayers:
Schmid attributed much of the Sounders’ struggles in a recent nine-game MLS winless streak to losing their tough-minded mentality and added that Montero’s skill-oriented style of play does little to restore that.

All indications are Montero will be in the team that faces Chivas USA on Wednesday, which only makes the Montero-bashing more confusing. And it’s not just Freedman. Some fans are also taking this time to chastise Seattle’s best player.

I get the fact that people want to see more out of him, but this recent slump not withstanding (everybody should be allowed a slump), Montero’s established a certain level of performance. He’s always scored between 10 and 12 goals. He’s always supplied between seven and 10 assists. Those are pretty narrow ranges.

It’s not like he scored 19 goals in his rookie season and has yet to match the output. But because we’ve never seen Fredy perform to our expectations, we assume he’s under-performing. But where do these expectations come from? Without any proof he can rise to our aspired levels, wouldn’t this be a good time to ask whether our expectations are fair?

Aw, screw that. Let’s call him lazy instead.

I’m having a difficult time wrapping my head around a player averaging 11 goals and nine assists through his first three MLS seasons while being lazy. Is he at times lazy? I’ll give you that, but I’ll give you that about every player. I even saw Dax McCarty walking, once. I can’t remember a truly prolific player in any league who could accurately be called lazy. Every lazy player I’ve seen has been very bad at professional soccer.

The Montero bashers have had their annual moment to vent. In all likelihood, Montero will soon return to his former self, end the season with double-digit goals, and we can all forget this ever happened. Until next year.