Long-time coach Tom Dutra paves the way for Sounders goalkeeping success


Sounders FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei made his 300th regular season appearance for the club on Saturday against FC Dallas.

It was a significant milestone for Frei, who has been instrumental to the club’s success since 2014. But it also serves as a testament to the entire goalkeeper group, led by Club Director of Goalkeeping Tom Dutra, and the countless hours he spends behind the scenes to help prepare Frei for matchday each weekend.

“When you have someone who leads every day the way he does, then it just pushes you into the next level,” said Frei.

Dutra began his coaching career with the Seattle Sounders in 2006, tenuring two USL seasons with the club before transitioning to MLS in 2009. Originally hired as a goalkeeper coach to work with the First Team keepers, Dutra has continued to grow within the organization over the last 18 years and now oversees all facets of goalkeeping at the club.

“He is easily the most technical, driven, refined, experienced coach that I've ever come across,” said goalkeeper Andrew Thomas. “There’s no one who is as experienced in producing top level goalkeepers as him and he expects nothing but the highest standards from us, but in a way that isn't completely overbearing.”

Dutra goes beyond what is expected of him; along with putting in the time to formulate each training session, he is also ensuring the drills are “well thought out, fresh, and relevant,” according to Frei, by traveling to Europe during the offseason.

“He uses his network [overseas] to make sure that he's on top of where the game is heading and what the goalkeeping as a whole union is doing and how we can improve,” said Frei.

Dutra’s coaching style and the way he communicates with his players has also gone a long way in terms of progressing goalkeepers.

“I remember starting with the Sounders and on day one of training he gave me five things that I needed to work on,” said Thomas. “And that was more feedback in that two-hour period than I'd gotten in four years in college and other coaches along the way.”

Dutra’s attention to detail is what sets him apart from other goalkeeping coaches. Whether it be about your knee being in the right spot or not stepping into exactly the right position by a fraction of an inch, it is the minute alterations he focuses on that allows his protégés to elevate their game to the next level.

“I always feel like we really work on small details and then it's awesome when we see one of our goalkeepers utilize those improvements in a game,” said Frei. “It feels like we're doing something together and getting better together.”

It is Dutra’s love and passion for goalkeeping and the Seattle Sounders organization, however, that not only inspires players like Thomas and Frei, but also gives him the incentive to show up to every training session with his best foot forward and lead with intent.

“I feel super motivated every day to come in and work with the guys,” said Dutra. “When I get between the lines of the goalkeepers, that's where I want to be. I wouldn't want to be in any other place…I feel so fortunate.”

This has been a consistent feeling for the Washington native since his hiring in 2006. From growing up as a Sounders fan, to being a player himself 28 years ago, he always knew he wanted to come back to the organization and make an impact as a coach.

“I didn't really care what they were going to pay me or not pay me, I just wanted the opportunity to be able to try to give them everything I had, to the goalkeepers and to the club,” said Dutra.

And he has done exactly that.

“Everybody sees him so dedicated to everything that he does,” said Frei. "The fact that Tommy and I have been together for 11 years, probably 250+ sessions each year, and everyday it’s a joy to come out, that is a testament to how much he loves goalkeeping and how much he actually puts into preparing us.”

The Sounders return to action on Saturday when the host the Vancouver Whitecaps on Pod Night at Lumen Field (7:30 p.m. PT; Watch on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, 93.3 KJR FM, El Rey 1360AM | TICKETS).



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