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“He’s such a vital piece to this team”: Stefan Frei continues to prove himself as a vital member of squad

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Three shutouts in four games to start the 2023 MLS season has been a fantastic achievement for goalkeeper Stefan Frei. But when you factor in his unparalleled history of success with the Sounders organization, his recent run of clean sheets should come as no surprise.

“Stef comes up big, he's such a vital piece to this team,” said defender Alex Roldan. “It's not just the backline, the four, that are in there working their tails off defensively, it's him who keeps the ball out.”

While Frei emphasized that it takes the whole team to achieve such a feat so early in the season, his contributions should not be overlooked — Saturday’s game against LAFC marked Frei’s 105th shutout over the course of his MLS career, putting him alongside all-time league greats like Kevin Hartman and Nick Rimando.

“Those are players who kind of laid the foundation and really helped the game grow in this league…The goalkeeping position got a lot of recognition due to those big names,” said Frei. “I'm honored, I'm super proud and I want to keep climbing.”

Securing over 100 career shutouts is a daunting task, but Goalkeeper Coach Tom Dutra was confident Frei would make a name for himself at the Sounders since he arrived in 2014.

“There's been so many moments, but I think for me the one that sticks out the most is probably an Open Cup game against the Timbers at Starfire in 2014…Of all games, that one always stood out for me because I felt from that time on, [Frei] caught fire and I think that’s the game I’ll always remember of him taking that next step.”

Dutra added: “It's been fun to watch him win everything you can win as a goalkeeper and every trophy you can win in this league…He's won as a goalkeeper here.”

With over 1,200 career saves – including 91 in the MLS postseason – Frei is ready to keep writing more history with the Sounders, stating that he’s “never felt stronger.”

“I've really tried to utilize the long offseason to get more mass and get more strength,” said Frei. “I think my kicking has increased in range, my explosion off a single leg has improved, so I'm very happy that I can add to my game at a later age in my career… I’m feeling great.”

But it’s his overall work ethic that has allowed him to continue his growth as a goalkeeper while supporting his team along the way.

“He's one of the first ones in the facility, one of the last ones to leave…What he brings on the field every day the guys can feed off of,” said Dutra. “He comes in every day trying to be better, trying to get better knowing some days aren't going to be good, and he just keeps pushing forward to try to make sure he's right and ready for each game.”

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