Stefan Frei has been so good for so long between the posts for the Seattle Sounders that the veteran goalkeeper’s standout play can sometimes be taken for granted.

But without Frei, the Sounders might well not be playing Wednesday’s second leg of the Concacaf Champions League Final against Pumas UNAM at Lumen Field (7:00 p.m. PT; FS1, UniMás, TUDN, 93.3 KJR FM, El Rey 1360AM), with his array of ridiculous saves in the Leg 2 of Seattle’s CCL Semifinal series against NYCFC that helped preserve a 4-2 aggregate victory highlighting his overall standout play in the tournament. 

When he thinks about Frei’s pivotal role in this CCL run, Sounders Senior VP of Soccer & Sporting Director Craig Waibel said it’s about more than just the saves that we see on the field.

“You don’t win without goalkeepers,” Waibel said. “I always joke goalkeepers aren’t soccer players and there’s a reason. It’s because they don’t do the same things [as a field player], they do very unique and special things and Stef is a very special player. 

“This team is so balanced in terms of, you can point to a lot of places for veterans, but you can’t point everywhere for vocal leadership. And Stef is one of those guys that provides a very, very unique skill set in professional sports of guys that are willing to speak up and lead vocally. And that takes courage. He’s one of those guys that does it.”

HIGHLIGHTS: NYCFC vs. Seattle Sounders | April 13, 2022

On an individual level, a CCL title would without a doubt further solidify Frei’s already entrenched status as one of the best goalkeepers in MLS history. No MLS team has ever won the modern incarnation of the continental tournament, after all. And with two MLS Cups and a Supporters’ Shield already to his name, the 35-year-old would add a truly historic achievement to that legacy.

“For me personally, the fact that I was able to play in [MLS Cup] 2016 was a historic moment for the franchise,” Frei said following the match against NYCFC. “There’s very select few opportunities to make history, that one is gone. There’s still one at least for MLS, it’s going to be massive for your career, for the franchise, for everybody involved. What a massive opportunity.” 

The significance a CCL win would carry organizationally is the most important part of it all, Frei said, given the historic nature of the occasion.

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After all these years anchoring the Seattle defense, the trophy at stake on Wednesday has the potential to be his most significant moment yet.

“It means everything for this organization,” Frei said. “I said it to the lads before the game that since 2016 I think there’s been one year that we were not participating in a final of some sort. That’s what you play for, that’s why players come to this organization because ultimately you want to play for trophies. Coming in second, having good seasons with nothing to show for it, that stuff doesn’t really last. I think that’s something we take pride in.”

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