One player is riding the momentum from the end of 2016, while the other has made an epic return from 2016 woes. Either way it’s sliced, goalkeeper Stefan Frei and forward Clint Dempsey have been imperative to the successes of the team this season. Outside of 2009 originals Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans, they, alongside Chad Marshall, are the longest-tenured players on the squad.
Much has been said about Stefan Frei’s MVP-winning performance in the 2016 MLS Cup last December, but what has come in the ensuing 10 months is perhaps more impressive. Since recording seven saves (plus another in penalty kicks!) on that frigid Toronto night, Frei has followed up with 13 clean sheets and a sparkling 1.09 GAA in the 2017 campaign.
It’s huge reason why Stefan Frei has become one of the best goalkeepers in MLS, according to Kasey Keller.
“He went from the goalkeeping wilderness after he left Toronto to really becoming one of the top goalkeepers in MLS,” Keller said.
Frei’s 13 shutouts ranked first in the league – the next closest was a three-way tie with 10. It was the most in MLS since 2015 and tied for the fifth-best mark in league history. He had the second-longest consecutive scoreless streak in MLS this season, when he set a new club record with four consecutive clean sheets. For his efforts, Frei was one of two goalkeepers selected in the MLS All-Star Game during the summer.
While Frei’s successes this season came at the heels of a fantastic finish last year, it’s been the complete opposite for forward Clint Dempsey. After all, has there been a better comeback story in the league this season? In August 2016, Dempsey was sidelined with an irregular heartbeat. At the time – and for the next several months – his professional future was in question. Making a return to action would be impressive enough, but the level at which he has produced has been astounding.
“He wanted to be laser sharp in his focus to help us repeat as champions,” Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said of Dempsey earlier this month. “[t’s] great to see. So, he’s all in.”
The 34-year-old Texas native recorded a team-high 12 goals to go along with five assists in 29 matches. Despite being sidelined for the MLS Cup chase last season, it would be difficult to imagine a similar run in 2017 without Dempsey at the helm.