For the first time in Sounders FC’s short MLS history, the team doesn’t have a penciled in starter at goalkeeper entering training camp.
The competition between returning backup Marcus Hahnemann and newly acquired Stefan Frei is one of the key storylines to training camp as the Sounders get ready to head to Arizona on Wednesday. As Hahnemann notes, there are 39 more training sessions between now and the regular season opener against Sporting Kansas City on March 8. Over the course of those sessions, and the eight preseason matches on the schedule, a starter will be determined and whoever wins that competition is going to have a well-prepared backup pushing him for playing time.
“There’s no pecking order anywhere really right now. We want to see how everybody comes along and develops,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “There are certain expectations that you have, but there are a lot of things ahead of us.”
Last year, Hahnemann competed with incumbent starter Michael Gspurning for playing time, but Gspurning was coming off of a stellar first MLS season in 2012 and didn’t relinquish playing time until late in the year when Hahnemann got two starts in his place in the final month of the regular season.
All told, Hahnemann played four matches, going 2-2-0 with a 1.00 goals against average and he came back for the 2014 season with an eye on the starting role.
“I plan on playing. That’s my goal is to go and play,” he said. “The only thing I can do is work my (butt) off for the next 39 sessions and put myself in the situation like I think I did last year in the preseason. Everything’s a bit more open. We’ve got a lot of good competition, which is what you need and it’s going to make us all better.”
Frei has spent the last five seasons with Toronto FC, but was limited by injuries over the last two years. In his first three years, he was 20-34-25 with 19 shutouts and a 1.55 goals against average for Toronto.
He relishes the opportunity to train with Hahnemann, who has 20 seasons of professional experience in the U.S. and England.
“I think it’s great. I’m going to try to learn as much off of him as I can,” Frei said. “He’s been with some of the top teams in the world and has tons of experience, so I will be watching closely.”
Both keepers offer different strengths and weaknesses, but they hold one thing in common. They both can keep the ball out of the net and that’s something that will keep this competition alive throughout the preseason.
“It’s always an open competition in the sense that you’re always going to play who is playing better,” Schmid said. “They’re just going to play and we’ll see how things come along.”
Sounders FC will leave for Arizona on Wednesday and train in Tucson until February 9, playing four matches before returning to Seattle.