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Montero, Saborio signings set up Ferreira deal

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Fredy Montero
The dominoes are falling.

Wednesday, Seattle made Fredy Montero, the franchise’s top scorer, its newest Designated Player. Not counting Landon Donovan’s grandfathered deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy, the Colombian star becomes the first MLS regular to graduate from the normal salaried ranks to DP status. On the same day, Alvaro Saborio, RSL’s leading scorer last year, made a similar deal to stay in Utah. The Costa Rican star was on loan from Swiss side, Sion. The buyout of the contract was expected to be US$1 million, but RSL negotiated that down.

Montero has totalled the third-most points — goals and assists combined — in MLS over the last two seasons. Only Jeff Cunningham and Conor Casey have more. And Montero is just 23; if he sticks with MLS, it is not out of the realm of possibility to think that he could become the league’s all-time leading scorer a decade from now.

MLS knew these DP moves were coming. When the new DP rule was rolled out on April 1, allowing each team to have a maximum of three slots, the league knew that its member clubs would soon need to use those allocations so they could retain existing players, not just to attract players from Europe and South America.

“Designated Player slots may be used to sign and retain existing MLS players, but they are no longer tradeable,” read the MLS statement when the DP rule was changed.

Montero was on loan from Colombian side Deportivo Cali; so, when the new deal was struck Wednesday, it finally gave MLS a chance to have the contract in its New York headquarters.

The two signings put a heck of a lot pressure on FC Dallas to get David Ferreira out of his loan with Brazilian side Atletico Paranaense. As The 11 reported during MLS Cup week, Ferreira has stated that he wants to remain in Texas. But, with three open DP spots and the Montero/Saborio deals done, surely there is pressure for the Hoops to emulate Seattle and RSL’s moves and give Ferreira the big raise.

Montero and Saborio were the dominoes to set the others in motion.

This is the new MLS, what is being referred to as the second act of Don Garber’s act as commissioner. Instead of saying “aw shucks” when players leave for Scandinavian leagues or lower-tier Dutch sides — which aren’t any better than MLS teams — Garber is speaking of one day making MLS a global power that will rival leagues in England, Germany and Spain. That time hasn’t come yet — and Garber allows that — but, to get there, MLS needs to find a way to retain its stars. It’s far more important to the league to keep the likes of Montero and Ferreira than it is to attract thirtysomething Euro stars like Thierry Henry. Because, if the existing elite players commit to the MLS long-term, it’s a sign that the league is no longer simply seen as a stepping stone to other leagues for young players.

Yes, players should still go to Spain or England if called. But the bleed of players to Mexico, Scandinavia, Scotland, Belgium and the Netherlands has to stop.

The signings of Montero and Saborio make for a historic day for MLS. More than the Beckham signing, more than the Henry signing, this might be the day where we begin to see MLS transform from feeder league into power league.

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