The last two years have been frustrating for newly acquired Sounders FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
The former Toronto FC shotstopper started his first three years in MLS for the Reds, but suffered a fractured leg and dislocated ankle during the 2102 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, ending his season before it really got started. Then last year, another injury knocked him out of action early in the season and he never regained his starting role.
In his view, the best way to cure that frustration was to change clubs.
“It was a learning experience for me,” Frei said. “I knew that after being there for five years and going through so many changes at goalkeeper and everything and my contract running out, I knew a new scenery was probably best for me. It was just a matter of where I would end up. I wanted to go to a team where I was wanted and needed, and a team where I could progress and get better as an individual, and Seattle totally fits that bill. I couldn’t have found a better team.”
Sounders FC has been following Frei for years. Prior to the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, Head Coach Sigi Schmid talked with the Cal-Berkeley product about how he could fit in Seattle.
Five years later, Schmid and Frei both got their wish when Seattle sent a conditional pick in the 2015 SuperDraft for the 27-year-old goalkeeper.
“I knew early on that they had big things in mind for Seattle, especially with the fans there and, in my opinion, being quite successful and making the playoffs often and doing well in the U.S. Open Cup, as well. It shows that they’re a big organization backed by awesome fans,” Frei said. “I was ecstatic once I heard I had the opportunity to join the team.”
Frei moves from the only team that has missed the playoffs in each of the last five seasons to one of three teams that has played in the postseason in all five years.
Coming to a team that has seen so much success and keeps so much ambition was appealing to Frei, who signed a contract with Seattle concurrent with the trade last week. He is also optimistic that playing with a team with such high expectations and a history of success can help him improve.
“I think if you have a good team around you, it’s going to make any player look better,” Frei said. “Obviously if you go to a team of the caliber that Seattle is I’m hoping as an individual it’s going to make me look better, but also I can help the team with my skills and make everyone else on the team look better. Hopefully that ends up with the team winning more games.”
Frei played 81 matches in his first three MLS seasons, then one more late last season. In his five-year career, he has a 20-35-25 record with 19 shutouts and a 1.54 goals against average.
Now he is feeling healthy and ready to prove his worth yet again.
In Seattle, he will compete for the starting goalkeeping spot, but comes to camp assured that he will be given a chance to play.
“It’s a given that any team you join there’s no certainty of who’s going to be a starter,” Frei said. “I’m well aware of what the situation is in terms of goalkeeping with the team. I think they believe in my abilities so I’m going to go in working hard in the preseason. I’ve been working hard in the offseason right now to earn that starting spot, but at the same time I also know that there are goalkeepers around there that are of high quality."