Marquee players show up in big matches and if the Philadelphia Union are to have a successful first go of the Concacaf Champions League they’ll be looking to their lone designated player Jamiro Monteiro to do just that.
“He’s kind of the perfect player for a Champions League environment because he raises his level in the biggest games,” head coach Jim Curtin said last week. “He’s maybe a little less known. All the other players and coaches in our league know him and know exactly what he’s about but in this kind of a competition I’ll just say maybe the scouting reports aren’t as dialed in on our players as they are in our own league so he’s the kind of player that could have a big competition for us.”
In his two seasons with the Union, Monteiro has proven his worth and versatility within a system that requires a relentless pursuit of the ball. He’s a tenacious defender who can rattle defenses into making mistakes while also possessing the creativity going forward to pull off game-changing plays, sometimes without even touching the ball.
“He’s the one that on our team changes the defense the most,” Curtin said of Monteiro’s attacking attributes.
With the front line decimated by injuries — Kacper Przybylko appears to be the only forward to make the flight to Costa Rica — Curtin could turn to Monteiro as the No. 10 and push Anthony Fontana closer to goal as a forward. Whether Fontana would pair with Przybylko or the veteran Ilsinho in that scenario is probably dependent on whether Przybylko is fit enough to start.
Either way, Monteiro may be the key to the Union getting an all important away goal ahead of the second leg back in Chester on the 14th when the injured Cory Burke and Sergio Santos could both be back in the lineup (Jack de Vries is currently in concussion protocol).
Monteiro also already has an international game under his belt for 2021 after going 90 minutes in a 1-0 win for the Blue Sharks over Mozambique that clinched a berth into the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations. Olivier Mbaizo also played 90 minutes in the first of two qualifiers for Cameroon, which was against Monteiro’s Cape Verde.