It all felt very familiar.
From the opening moments of Saturday's MLS Cup between the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC, the visiting Sounders were continually on their heels, with Toronto's dynamic attack pushing heavily on Seattle's defense. Each time the Reds were able to break through the backline, though, they were met by a stout brick wall named Stefan Frei. By the end of the first half, the reigning MLS Cup MVP had six saves — just one shy of the MLS Cup record for saves in a half.
"It’s very, very difficult to come into a hostile territory and be a playmaker, I understand that," Frei said. "But, it’s been our backbone for the season, it’s been our identity to have possession, to win duels, to wear the opponent down. For a whole half we were not doing that and we were barely clinging on to a lifeline."
That lifeline, of course, was Frei himself, who made stunning save after stunning save throughout the evening. Just 10 minutes into the match, Frei came up with this incredible stop.
Fewer than 15 minutes later, he had this one.
On the brink of halftime, he maintained a a clean sheet with another impressive stop.
The scoreless first half extended the club's postseason shutout streak to 692 minutes.
The record-long scoreless streak came to an end, though, when Toronto's Jozy Altidore slipped one past an onrushing Frei in the 67th minute. It was the first goal the Sounders had allowed since Oct. 1 against the Philadelphia Union, a stretch over six full matches.
"He was amazing," forward Jordan Morris said after the match. "He's a big-time player, you saw it last year. He helped us win by making some saves. This year, unfortunately, they scored some goals, but he kept us in the game for so long. It's impressive how he steps up every game."
Toronto went on to score another in the final moments of the contest for the 2-0 result and its first MLS Cup victory in club history. Despite the loss, the performance from Frei should not go unnoticed. In the past two MLS Cups, Frei has recorded 16 saves and and allowed just two goals against one of the most powerful offenses in league history.