We’ve known since last season ended that the Union wanted to bring Jamiro Monteiro back. Monteiro’s view, however, wasn’t as clear back then.
As Monteiro settles into his second year in Philadelphia — his first since earning a club-record $2 million transfer, a designated player contract, and the No. 10 jersey — we now have the answer.
And as it turns out, he had the answer a long time ago.
“We were talking the whole season long [last year], since I came here, about signing a contract here,” Monteiro said. "It was difficult sometimes, but I always talked with the coach [Jim Curtin], and he always told me, ‘Just focus on the games, and everything will be all right,’ I’m happy that I made this decision.”
Getting a big deal certainly didn’t hurt. But Monteiro is an honest guy, and usually pretty serious. So it’s OK to take him at his word.
The proof was in his attempt at a joke when he was asked whether his former club, France’s Metz, tried to persuade him to stay there.
“Metz? I don’t know Metz,” he said. “I only know Philly now. So I don’t want to talk about Metz.”
Monteiro was willing to reflect on the time between last October, when the 2019 season ended, and the completion of his new deal in mid-January. He spent some time off with his family and worked to stay in shape, but there was plenty of uncertainty along the way.
“Sometimes, when I [would] go to bed, I was thinking, ‘What will be my next option? What do I do, because we still don’t have an agreement?’ ” he said. "At that time, I didn’t want to go back to Metz. So it was difficult … but I’m finally here.”
The No. 10 jersey is soccer’s most famous, worn by the sport’s grand creators. Monteiro isn’t quite that: He plays as much defense as he does offense, maybe more.
But he knows what he’s (literally) getting into. He took the number when he returned and Marco Fabián didn’t.
“The number 10, it’s a big number — every midfielder wants to play with the number 10,” Monteiro said, and he included himself.
He also won’t always be in the No. 10′s traditional position of attacking playmaker. At times, you’ll see him in one of the central positions in the Union’s midfield diamond, behind Brenden Aaronson, and at times, you’ll see the two of them reverse roles.
You also might see the Union rotate that diamond into a box, with Aaronson and Monteiro as the front two.
“He’s just an unbelievable player, and I love playing with him," Aaronson said. “We do a lot of one-twos [passing] and stuff like that. For him to come back and be at the club really helps us out a lot.”
Soccer fans with long memories might remember when the U.S. national team played a similar setup under Bob Bradley and it was derided as an “empty bucket” formation. These days, it’s more fashionable — and the Union have the pieces to succeed with it.
You might not see Monteiro being a vocal leader on the field. It isn’t his style, and he said he doesn’t think his new stature makes it necessary.
“Everybody talks with each other," he said. “When one sees something or the other one [does], we need everyone, we need each other to talk.”
He added that "everybody is a leader in this team. … Everybody in the team is a big player.”
That will probably be just fine. Teammates such as Alejandro Bedoya and Andre Blake will do the shouting when needed.
Monteiro will let his skills speak for him, and they will say plenty.