Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson had scouted dozens of strikers in his seemingly endless search for a proven goal-scorer when an old friend suggested one more name.
Mauro Rosales, who played parts of two seasons for Robinson, knew that former teammate Fredy Montero might be available. He also knew the Whitecaps desperately needed someone to put the ball in the back of the net.
"(Rosales) didn’t have any worries about suggesting us as a possible destination," said Robinson. "It took two or three weeks, but everyone worked their socks off day and night."
The Whitecaps announced Wednesday they have acquired Montero from Tianjin Teda of the Chinese Super League on a one-year loan deal with the aim of boosting an offence that has struggled the last three seasons.
"We’ve got an honest enough locker-room here that we know we need some help in that attacking area," Robinson said on a conference call. "When we’re bringing in a player like Fredy Montero you can see everyone has got an extra spring in their step. They’re delighted."
Montero played in Major League Soccer for the Seattle Sounders from 2009 to 2012, including two seasons alongside Rosales.
Robinson acquired Rosales in 2014 before dealing him to FC Dallas before the 2016 campaign. The Welshman said the respect he showed the player during that period helped get the wheels for the Montero deal in motion.
"In football you talk all the time about relationships," said Robinson. "It just goes to show that being up front and honest with people is the right way forward in whatever walk of life you’re in."
Montero, who joins midfielder Matias Laba as a designated player in Vancouver, is a three-time MLS all-star and was the league’s newcomer of the year in 2009. The 29-year-old Colombian scored 47 goals and added 34 assists in 119 regular-season appearances with Seattle.
"It was a no-brainer," said Robinson. "It helps the squad on the field as well as off the field. We’re excited to have him and get going."
The deal for Montero involved a number of moving parts. Apart from the terms with the Chinese club, Vancouver had to get an agreement in place with the expansion Minnesota United to secure the No. 1 spot in the MLS allocation ranking order to bring him back into the league.
In exchange, the Whitecaps sent Minnesota US$100,000 in general allocation money and $125,000 in targeted allocation money in 2018, and an international roster spot through 2017.
Vancouver has struggled to find a replacement for Camilo Sanvezzo ever since the Brazilian forced his way out of town following a 22-goal campaign in 2013 that won him the MLS Golden Boot award.
The sight of Whitecaps strikers looking skyward or burying faces in hands after missing golden opportunities in front of the opposition goal has been commonplace.
Octavio Rivero looked like the answer after a bright start to the 2015 season, but he faded and was sold last summer. The unproven Masato Kudo was brought in before the 2016 campaign, but he also failed to impress and has since moved on.
Vancouver fans have been wondering if and when Robinson was going to make a move for a goal-scorer, and he finally pulled the trigger with Montero.
"Anyone who thinks signing players is easy unfortunately is mistaken," said Robinson, who is set to begin his fourth season in charge. "If you have $5 million then you go spend the money on David Villa. You don’t really have to do much homework on David Villa.
"We have to find players that fit into the category of our budget restraints. When you do that, obviously the search gets narrowed."
As part of the deal, the Whitecaps retain the option to keep Montero’s MLS rights for the 2018 season.
Montero joins newly signed Peruvian midfielder-forward Yordy Reyna in Vancouver. Robinson also has Erik Hurtado, Kekuta Manneh, Giles Barnes and Kyle Greig, who has been promoted from the club’s USL affiliate, as attacking options.
"Hopefully it takes a lot of pressure off the other guys," said Robinson. "But we are a team and an organization that has to do things by committee."
In 2013, Seattle loaned the five-foot-nine Montero to Colombia’s Millonarios FC, where he scored 10 goals in 27 appearances. He then went to Portugal’s Sporting Clube de Portugal, which eventually bought him.
Montero, who scored nine goals in 23 games last year for Tianjin Teda, has made four appearances for the Colombian national team.
"It will make us better, but the fundamentals don’t change," said Robinson. "We’ve got to be a hard-working team, difficult to play against."
Vancouver still has one designated player spot open after cutting ties with captain and midfielder Pedro Morales in December.
The Whitecaps’ season is fast approaching, with the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final against the New York Red Bulls set for Feb. 22.
"We’re not resting here. I still want to add to my squad," said Robinson. "I’m still looking at maybe one or two more moves to make the squad stronger and make us more competitive."