“To put pen to paper, it was surreal,” said Montes, who signed a one-year deal that also includes club options. “I’m very happy.”
Because he is not eligible for a British work visa, Montes will begin his career this summer on loan, probably elsewhere in Europe. He would need to earn points on the club level or through national team appearances to become eligible for a UK work permit. (He has never played for the U.S. squad and is also eligible to play for Nicaragua.)
After a standout career at Georgetown, including the 2019 College Cup championship, Montes turned down an invitation to the Portland Timbers’ preseason camp in March. Because Montes played in their youth academy, the Timbers owned his MLS homegrown rights, exempting him from the league’s draft.
He said the Timbers did not extend a formal contract offer.
“They wanted to see me in preseason and make a decision off that,” Montes said. “But for me, I’ve been part of your program, and I felt it would’ve been fair of them to give me an offer before going into camp. I wasn’t upset. I just thought it would be a better decision to stay in school, and when the Palace opportunity came up, I couldn’t say no.”
Because they didn’t make an offer, the Timbers relinquished his MLS rights. The New England Revolution claimed them Monday in a waiver draft, two people familiar with the draft said. Should he return stateside, Montes would belong to the Revolution.
Montes left Georgetown after the April 3 match against Connecticut, one of three standouts to depart during the season. Forward Derek Dodson and defender Rio Hope-Gund reported to Orlando City, the MLS team that drafted them in the first round in January.
Following a week of quarantine in London, Montes was scheduled to train with Crystal Palace’s under-23 squad for a week or two. Impressed by his performance, the club extended his stay.
“A couple guys warmed up and welcomed me. The coaches welcomed me as well,” said Montes, who, as a teenager, trained informally with Manchester United, among other English clubs. “There were a few guys who didn’t really make me feel as welcome. That’s normal and expected, because it’s a competitive environment.”
He returned to Palm Beach County, Fla., last week to await his loan destination.
The move will continue a career path that began with MLS aspirations and gradually grew into European goals. Crystal Palace learned about him through connections at Montes’s prep academy, FC Florida.
With a 12-18-8 record, the Eagles finished 14th in the 20-club Premier League this season, their eighth consecutive year in the top flight since earning promotion.
“I’ve dreamed of playing pro since I first started playing, but by the time I got to Georgetown, MLS was the focus and most realistic option,” Montes said. “It was just a fortunate opportunity to get to Palace, and I made the most out of it.”
His Georgetown commencement ceremony was Monday. Because of quarantine issues after returning from England, he participated through a video link.
“A contract and my diploma,” he said. “It’s all pretty awesome.”
Read more on soccer: