Toronto FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei eyes rare start, but stays away from 2014 talk

TORONTO – With starting goalkeeper Joe Bendik suspended for Toronto FC’s match against the Chicago Fire on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, TSN2/RDS2 in Canada, MLS LIVE in US), the Reds’ longest-serving player, Stefan Frei, will make his long-awaited return to league action.

As TFC’s all-time leader in appearances with 98, Frei was anointed No. 1 ‘keeper when Ryan Nelsen took over the team ahead of this season. But an injury suffered during preseason opened the door for Bendik to assume the starting 'keeper position that he has occupied ever since.

With plenty of recent speculation surrounding Frei’s future with Toronto FC – he’s out of contract after this season – Saturday’s match against the Fire might not only mark his return to MLS action, it could also represent his final appearance in a TFC kit.

Frei, however, was quick to play down that particular angle ahead of Saturday’s match.

“Right now I am focused on what is at hand,” Frei said. “We’ll deal with the future once we get to that bridge.”

Even though Frei has seen very little first-team action in 2013, TFC goalkeeping coach Stewart Kerr was quick to express his belief that Frei won’t suffer any rust as Toronto look to end their season strong in a pair of matches against Chicago and Montreal.

“Stef has worked very diligently and very hard,” Kerr said. “He has played a few Reserve [League] games as well as the Canadian Championship games and the Roma friendly. The thing with Stefan Frei is, he is such a consummate professional. Every day he comes and works like it is a gameday for him. So this is what he has been building up for and I have absolutely no concerns about him being ready.

“Unfortunately, it is part of a goalkeeper’s life,” Kerr continued. “Very rarely does a 'keeper go through a career and he doesn’t have a bad time when he is out of the lineup due to a lack form, injury or somebody else coming in and doing well. It is just part of the game. The biggest thing is to be ready when the chance comes and that is what Stefan has done.”

Steve Bottjer covers Toronto FC for MLSsoccer.com.