Stefan Frei 1202

Sounders FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei knows a thing or two about making a comeback. Coming off a 2013 season plagued by injuries where he only made one appearance with Toronto FC, Frei knew he had to make an immediate impact in 2014 to keep his career moving forward.

Fast-forward almost a year, and the Swiss keeper found himself as a consistent fixture in the Sounders FC lineup, starting in every match and playing every minute of the 2014 season. His consistency didn’t stop at his appearance on the roster; Frei posted nine shutouts and an impressive 99 saves as he helped steer the team toward a solid 20-10-4 record, which earned the squad its first Supporters’ Shield in club history.

The turnaround earned him a spot among the nominees for MLS Comeback Player of the Year, which was awarded on Tuesday to Timbers forward Rodney Wallace. Although Frei didn’t take the top honors, the first-year Sounders FC goalkeeper saw the highest percentage of votes by both clubs and media — 21.95% and 24.42%, respectively.

“It was the most important year in my career, for sure,” Frei said following the Sounders bittersweet win on Sunday night that eliminated the team from their postseason campaign against LA Galaxy. “Having a chance to go on a journey like I did, and get back up and work on that confidence and everything with it, you need a lot of people to believe you and give you time to be able to do that.”

Frei had the unwavering support of both his teammates and the technical staff, which supported him as he made his comeback. At times, he needed the reassurance. “It was really tough, and I was really upset with myself, but it allowed the coaches to show me the faith they had in me,” he said as he reflected on his start to the season.

Despite some questions surrounding his abilities earlier in the season, Head Coach Sigi Schmid knew he made the right choice to stick with the 28-year-old. When commenting on his decision earlier this season, he shook off naysayers by pointing to Frei’s ability to make a turnaround.

“I think over the last eight, nine games everyone could see the reason why we made the trade and the reason why I feel he has the potential to be one of the top goalkeepers in the league,” Schmid said.

Although the club didn’t advance to the MLS Cup Final, there were plenty of accomplishments for Frei to add to his resume this season. In addition to the Supporters’ Shield, the team brought home the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in July — the fourth time in Sounders history. 2014 also marked the goalkeeper’s first trip to the MLS postseason after five campaigns in the league.

The year is an obvious contrast to 2013 for Frei and with it comes a new perspective. The bar has been set high and he knows the offseason will mean preparation for another push in the coming year. “I’m really thankful to have been able to be a part of this team this year and hopefully for many years to come.”



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