On a day when Sounders FC needed him to be at his best, Stefan Frei put on a goalkeeping clinic at CenturyLink Field to guide the Rave Green to a massive victory.
The Portland Timbers kept Frei on his toes all afternoon, taking 20 shots and playing in 27 crosses during Sunday’s match. But the veteran keeper was ready for everything the Timbers threw at him. Frei made five saves in the first half, including a stop of Lucas Melano’s one-on-one breakaway in the 30th minute. The second half was full of dangerous crosses from Portland, and Frei came off his line to collect a number of them as the Sounders held on for a 2-1 win.
Frei’s performance earned him a spot on the MLS Team of the Week. After the game, the Swiss keeper received some high praise from Head Coach Sigi Schmid.
“I thought he improved consistently last year, and by the end of the year, he was one of the best goalkeepers in the league,” Schmid said. “I don’t think he gets mentioned in the same breath as some of the [other keepers], and I think that’s a shame. I know he had the MLS Save of the Week last week, and that save he made on Melano in the first half [Sunday] was very critical.”
Although Sunday was certainly one of his finest outings, Frei has been consistent in goal all season. Despite missing a few matches due to injury, he ranks third in the league in saves (88) and second in save percentage (77) among keepers with at least five starts. He’s won Save of the Week four times, which is tied for the most in MLS. After setting a career high with nine clean sheets last season, Frei needs just one shutout to surpass his personal best again this year.
There wasn’t much he could do on Portland’s goal on Sunday, as Jack Jewsbury’s volley hit the back of the net before Frei even had time to react. After the match, however, the 29-year-old keeper was still focused on ways to improve heading into Saturday’s clash with Toronto FC.
“I was happy with making a couple of saves, especially when it could have been 1-1 going into the half instead of 2-0, but as a goalkeeper you’re striving for perfection,” Frei said. “There are things out there that I screwed up today. Those are the things that I’ll remember, and I’ll try to improve on them during the week.”
Sunday’s victory was much needed for Frei and the Sounders, who remain in the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with seven games to go. The result also means Seattle sits atop the 2015 Cascadia Cup standings and can hoist the trophy with a win or draw at home against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on September 19.
“Big three points for us at home and especially against the big rivals,” Frei said. “There’s not too many [games] left, and the thing is that all of the teams we’re playing in the future are tough, tough opponents. Today was no different, but really a big three points for us.”