Alejandro Bedoya was unquestionably the heart of the 2019 Philadelphia Union, and Kacper Przybylko was the breakout star in front of goal. But perhaps no player embodied the direction of the club quite like Jamiro Monteiro.
Brought in on loan from FC Metz, the midfielder was a vibrating ball of energy, aggression, and toughness, and his directness in transition produced breathtaking moments like the weaving winner at Toronto FC.
On Friday, Philadelphia Union showed their ambition by bringing the Cape Verde international back on a Designated Player contract that provides more evidence the club will build on and refine its style in the coming years.
Monteiro scored four goals and added nine assists in 2019, often getting involved with runs from deep positions on the break. He was lightning quick to jump into tackles and fought back from a late-season ankle injury to push the team over the line to their first playoff win.
And, in the end, he wanted to do it all again.
"He fits the style of play, and, personally, he likes it here," Union Sporting Director Ernst Tanner said of Monteiro. "We know what we have with him. He's an excellent player that stood out over the course of the last season; one of the key players on the team."
However, Tanner cautions that Monteiro should not be expected to be a star just because he's signing a Designated Player contract. The star, in Philadelphia, will remain the team.
"That is the culture. Team play," he emphasized. "In our system, you need those that lead with their performance on the field; we need to continue to establish that culture this season."
Additionally, Tanner believes signing a permanent deal will help Monteiro focus and grow as a part of an ambitious locker room that is dedicated to taking the next step in 2020. "When you're on loan, you perform and show yourself, but you don't know what will happen in the future. But now you are a full part of the team and you absolutely are focused on being successful with the team."
"I am sure he can grow," Tanner continued. "He is versatile and overall just an excellent player. What we will do going forward is the system that best fits our team and philosophy, and then we'll see where Jamiro fits this season."
Indeed, Monteiro showed that he could act as almost an advanced No. 6 playing behind the strikers last year and closing down the opposition's distributor. He also combined well with Kai Wagner on the left and could drop deep when Philly moved to a 4-2-3-1.
Going forward, the 26 year old will be asked to become an even more important contributor in transition, where his ability to beat the first defender opens space for quick breaks against disorganized opponents. He will also likely take on more set piece duties with both Haris Medunjanin and Marco Fabian moving on.
Ernst Tanner and the Union have talked a lot about how the club will be guided by an aggressive, attacking philosophy, and no player looked the part on both sides of the ball quite like Monteiro last year.
Now that he knows where his future lies, expect even more from a dialed-in No. 35 going forward.