Union have Monteiro back at 100% Health ahead of final stretch – 3 Key reasons why his return is vital

At this point in the season, Philadelphia Union and MLS fans alike have not only come to know the name Jamiro Monteiro, but many have boasted him as perhaps one of the league’s most effective players. Here’s a look into what Monteiro provides for Philadelphia with just nine games left before playoffs.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Back in March, Philadelphia Union Sporting Director Ernst Tanner announced the club acquired the services of a 25-year midfielder from the French second tier league. It was a rather quiet announcement, considering many fans had never heard of the name Jamiro Monteiro. Once the details of the acquisition were announced – a short four-month loan with options to extend and also buy at the end of the loan.

Just recently in May, Philadelphia announced Monteiro’s loan would be extended until the end of 2019 while the financials remained in limbo for a time. Many of those financial question marks were a result of Monteiro’s French side, FC Metz – originally declining to take on Monteiro’s performance-based incentives. Tanner would later comment that the deal was just fine and that Philly did everything right in bringing Monteiro to Philly.

In fact, Monteiro decided to make the jump to MLS at just age 25 because he saw it as an opportunity to not only grow and mature as a player but to also shine brightest for a club in desperate need of his skill-set.

Below is a quick post-match interview with Monteiro following his first career goal with Philadelphia in MLS.

Union fans endured a long and somewhat torturous process waiting for Monteiro’s immigration paperwork (Cape Verde native) and financials to be finalized. But the wait was well worth it. After back-to-back late sub appearances at Cincinnatti and at home against Dallas, Monteiro earned his first start at LA Galaxy April 13th. He scored the next game and since has tallied a team high eight assists while continually covering a ton of ground each match throughout the midfield.

The acquisition has been monumental so far in 2019. Here’s why:

Ground Coverage: Monteiro and his never-tiring engine

Consistently throughout this season whenever Union Head Coach Jim Curtin speaks of Monteiro, one of the main topics is his ability to cover the field from box-to-box without being a defensive-minded player.

If you think of a defensive-minded midfielder, chances are a player like Warren Creavalle comes to mind. But if you couple Creavalle’s ball-winning skills and the pace of Fafa Picault, you get a Monteiro – a player that can chase down opposition players from sideline to sideline and from box-to-box.

Monteiro first gained notoriety for his ability to navigate the field, simply being in the right spots at the right time. Which for many players – even at age 25 – can be a difficult task to consistently accomplish. And for Philadelphia, the ability Monteiro possesses to hunt down opponents and force bad decisions all while anticipating the next play has been crucial.

Tackling and Ball-Winning: He affects the game on both sides of the ball

One of the most effective if not THE most effective traits of Monteiro’s game is his ability to pick his opponent’s pocket. At just 5’8” and under 140 lbs, Monteiro still manages to knock players off the ball with ease several times a game.

So far in 2019, Monteiro racked up 59 tackles in MLS play which ranks 12th in MLS. And when you consider the time that Monteiro missed due to the before mentioned paperwork delay months ago and a recent ankle sprain, his ranking is very impressive.

He has 1297 total minutes logged which means he averages 4.1 tackles per 90 minutes which is 2nd among players logging at least 1220 minutes this season (courtesy of WhoScored.com)

Without Monteiro on the ball, Philly’s defense has been torched. And for good reason. Without a guy like Monteiro running at full speed from start to finish while chasing guys all over the pitch, a team may suffer. But now Monteiro is back and has the chance to take over the midfield for good.

Offensive prowess: Passing, Shooting, and Off-ball Movement

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Monteiro’s game is his ability to be highly effective in the final third in addition to his defensive capabilities. A quick glimpse of highlights from some of Philadelphia’s matches this year can help understand just how important Monteiro in the offensive end.

Pass and move. It’s simple in theory but can easily get complicated on the pitch. But Monteiro continually showcased his knowledge of the game throughout his first few appearances in the blue and gold.

Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

Above is a perfect example of how Monteiro can influence the game from his midfield position. He found Kai Wagner up ahead for a pass and then quickly darted toward the box which forced defenders backpedaling. Not only did Monteiro make the right move, but he also managed to navigate to the one area where Wagner could reconnect for a perfect give-and-go goal.

Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

At the 1:50 minute mark above, Ilsinho takes two players with him toward the corner flag. Monteiro – with his high soccer IQ – realized a golden opportunity centrally and capitalized. He decided on a late-run into the box from his midfield position and Ilsinho rewarded him. Monteiro’s first-time shot is of the highest quality as well.

Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

The above clip showcases perhaps the most important aspect of Monteiro’s game, passing in the final third. He seems to always have his head up, whether in transition moments or when passing it around in the attacking half. He will find you if you are open.

And he’s helped eight different times now, leading the team – along with Medunjanin – with 8 assists on the year. The pass to Kacper above is perfectly weighted and hit at the right time so Kacper can easily take it in stride before doing what finishers do – slot home a chance inside the box.

Can Monteiro carry Philly on deep playoff run?

Sure. But not alone.

He’s back now. Fully recovered from a dangerous ankle sprain thanks to Sacha Kljestan and his dangerous challenge below.

Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Union fans have seen glimpses of what Mexican superstar Marco Fabian can bring to matches – most recently with a brace at DC. And Alejandro Bedoya will need to continue lighting sparks inside the locker room to keep guys focused on each match.

But perhaps the most needed aspect is health. Everyone must remain healthy. With Bedoya and Monteiro on the field with Fabian, Medunjanin can shine bright stringing passes together with the rest of the veteran midfield group all match.

With nine games left, and a massively important home match this weekend against a flailing Houston Dynamo group, Philadelphia have to keep pushing the envelope with playoffs ahead.

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