While he has been heating up of late on the scoreboard, we have yet to see the Fredy Montero of old. What can be done to get it back?
It has been the case since the start of the season, but especially in the last couple of games, Fredy Montero has been isolated. Against Atlanta one week ago where he didn’t manage a single shot and again in Kansas City on Saturday, the Whitecaps failed to muster up any sort of attacking threat and the most glaring part of it comes down to the striker’s absence. Let’s make this clear, Fredy Montero has not played badly. He is the team’s leading scorer and if he can hit the form he eventually found in the 2017 season, supporters of the blue and white will have nothing to complain about from their striker. The question marks come from the team surrounding him. For some reason or another, Fredy Montero has not been seeing enough of the ball.
Could it be the formation? Dos Santos has been playing the majority of this season with a 4-3-3 formation deploying one deep-lying midfielder and two in a more attacking position. This inverted triangle in the midfield usually means sacrificing a purely attacking midfielder. Think of Pedro Morales, Nicolas Mezquida or even… Yordy Reyna? The players used in the two more attacking midfield roles have mostly been Inbeom Hwang, Russel Teibert and/or Felipe. None of these players have had poor seasons, but they are all central midfielders. Nothing more and nothing less and more importantly; they haven’t been able to connect enough with the striker.
Maybe it’s not the midfield that needs to be looked at, but the striker’s ability to make the most of it. Fredy Montero does not carry the biggest frame and has played most of his career with another forward offering support. Here again, it is not the player to blame, but what may be questioned is the coach’s use of him. Joaquin Ardaiz – who is a much more imposing presence -has come off the bench and made a few starts himself in the lone striker role. He has proved to be an improvement when it comes to winning areal balls, but his first interest isn’t always to hold up the ball and his lack of hustle has meant that his introduction has not necessarily benefited the team overall.
If the players themselves aren’t underperforming, it would lead one to think that it is their use indeed which is prohibiting the Whitecaps from having a more potent attack. If this is the case, the two obvious alternatives to the formation would be to use two strikers, going against Dos Santos’ preferential formation, or shaking up the midfield in order to provide more support underneath the lone striker. The Caps happen to have players that can provide that support, including the streaky Reyna. Although he has played this season as a wide or even central forward, he is the first player who comes to mind when looking at the current roster as someone who can play as a midfielder playing higher up the field and committed to offering whoever plays up top more support. Looking back to 2017, when Montero had his 13 goal season, Yordy Reyna was such an instrumental part in his success as the two found formidable chemistry.
Marc Dos Santos is a man of systems and it would be hard to see him change the shape of his squad, but in order to give fans something to cheer about, something must give. What is needed? Is it just time? The thing about time is that it’s useless unless change happens within it.
(Editors Note: This article was written before Montero’s goal today against New York)