BY Stanley Holmes 10:25PM 11/30/2010

New deal for Montero — as Sounders’ DP

New multi-year deal for top scorer locks up Sounders’ designated player spot.

Sounders striker Fredy Montero has re-upped with the club. Montero is now the third Designated Player on the roster. (Drew Sellers/ Sportspress Northwest)

Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer said Wednesday that he is elated to secure a multi-year contract for one of the best players on the Sounders, if not in Major League Soccer. He confirmed the re-signing of Fredy Montero, who is now Seattle’s third designated player.

“Of course we are very excited today,” Hanauer said. “This young man has been a very important part of our franchise from day one. He’s becoming one of the best players in our league. I think he can be the best player in our league bar none.”

In case anyone is wondering, Hanauer’s comments make it crystalline clear about the value the Sounders coaching staff place on the Colombian ball wizard. They see Montero as the core of the nucleus that will propel the Sounders to MLS Cup and CONCACAF Champions League glory.

And while such thoughts are extremely premature, giving your best player a reason to stay is sure to be motivating, as Montero acknowledged in a press conference at Starfire Sports, in Tukwila.

“I’m very happy because this is an honor to be with the Sounders for many years,” Montero said, through an interpreter. “And I want to win many championships for the team, for my friends, for my family, for everybody who likes the Sounders.”

The move has its upside and downside. It secures the team’s best offensive player in its brief history, but it also forecloses the Sounders from acquiring any other quality foreigner, at least for the near future.  The deal officially terminates the loan agreement between the Sounders and the parties controlling Montero’s loan in his native Colombia.

With Montero now a designated player, it means the Sounders will not be looking for another impact player from Europe or Latin America, Hanauer acknowledged. “We now have three Designated Players so that means that we currently cannot go shopping for another Designated Player,” he said. “We are cap constrained, certainly.”

But now, the Sounders and Major League Soccer own Montero’s contract. If he decides to bolt for a European club, the Sounders and MLS can negotiate a potentially lucrative transfer fee. It can be a shrewd business move as well as potentially smart competitive decision.

Montero earns roughly $185,000 a year. Under the new multi-year deal, he is expected to receive a hefty pay raise, but Hanauer disclosed few contract details on Wednesday.

Blaise Nkufo and Alvaro Fernandez are Seattle’s other designated players.

The formula to determine a DP can be complex. The simple version is any player making $450,000 a year in pure salary qualifies. The more complex version combines salary and transfer fee and calculates a number over the life of the contract that has to exceed the $450,000 annual salary.

Montero, 23, led the club in scoring (10 goals) and in assists (10) and and most offensive categories. He took 91 shots and put 34 on frame. Referees called 44 fouls on the Colombian striker and opponents committed 60 fouls against him. He was voted MLS Player of the Month in July for his two goals and three assists over four weeks that contributed to the Sounders’ resurgence.

Montero is also feeling more comfortable in Seattle and with the direction of the team, according to people who know him. He recently bought a house and shares it with his father and brother. His father, Fredy Montero Sr. , is employed as a scout for Latino players. His brother attends Bellevue Community College and plays on the soccer team.

While Montero said playing in Europe one day is a distinct possibility, for now he is committed to Seattle and content with the level of play in Major League Soccer, which he says gets tougher every year.

But he also has formed a connection with the supporters of the Rave Green.

“I arrived here as a virtual unknown to the Sounders and through the seasons and over the course of many games I have endeared myself to the fans and I love the fans.,” Montero said. “I am glad that I am going to be able to play a bigger role for the Sounders.”

All of that could change if he fails to live up to new expectations as a designated player. Montero can be mercurial and spellbinding. He can change a match and can perform feats with the ball that few can achieve under pressure.

But Montero can also switch off,  appearing indifferent when things aren’t flowing well. His disagreements with former designated player Freddie Ljungberg spilled onto the pitch; his play and effort suffered until Ljungberg exited for Chicago.

The new contract will demand more consistent high-level effort.  As he enters his third season, the challenge will be to perform as he did during the second half of the season for the whole year.

Montero seemed unstoppable,  creating many of Seattle’s best opportunities, including scoring four game-winning goals in MLS play and six in all competitions. For the Sounders and for Montero, the new contract looks like money in the bank.