In a Twitter exchange following Sunday’s 4-0 win over FC Dallas, a Sounders fan asked Stefan Frei a question: “Do you prefer a night of not making saves or a match where you come up big?”
Frei replied a minute later, “0 saves.”
That answer may be surprising, considering Frei has a knack for coming up big in clutch moments. Even Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said that “he makes the key saves when we need him to.”
Yet those who know Frei understand that he has always been a team-first player. So even though highlight reels immortalize Frei for his wondrous saves, he’ll prefer an outing like Sunday, which featured just one shot on target from the opposing side due to a well-rounded defensive effort.
The clean sheet against FC Dallas gives Frei 12 shutouts this season, which sets a club record for an MLS campaign. No other goalkeeper in MLS has more shutouts in 2017 than the Sounders’ shot-stopper.
“It’s a team effort,” Frei said. “There’s nothing I can do by myself. Sometimes it [gets credited] on the goalkeeper, but if we’re going to be successful we need all 11 guys who are on the pitch at the time to defend.”
It’s been a career year for Frei, who earned MLS Cup MVP honors last December and has been on fire ever since. His 1.13 GAA is the second-best mark of his career, while his 12 shutouts mark the second time he’s reached double-digit clean sheets (10, 2015). In August, he represented the Rave Green in the MLS All-Star Game.
He’s been the defensive anchor for a club that has achieved great success, helping the club secure a spot in the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season. It’s the longest active record in MLS and just one year shy of the league record (1996-2005).
“[It was] massive to clinch a playoff spot with one game to go in a season that was difficult,” Frei said after the match. “But that was one of our goals and we know historically it’s been difficult for reigning champs to get back into the playoffs.”
In the locker room following Sunday’s win, Schmetzer credited Frei for his achievement.
“Stef was making sure he thanked all of his defenders, all of his teammates. That’s the character of the kind of guy he is. We are very happy for him.”