VANCOUVER, B.C. — As Marco Pappa’s attempted clearance looped back toward the Seattle Sounders’ goal and headed for the sideline, there was an undeniable sense that something was about to go wrong.
Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei had given chase, ranging far outside the penalty area, and despite not being under any pressure from Vancouver Whitecaps players attempted to clear the ball toward midfield. Gershon Koffie was first to the ball, trapping it off his chest and lobbing a shot from about 40 yards toward a now empty net. Frei, who was a good 25 yards from goal, did his best to get back into position, but could only watch helplessly as the Whitecaps got the go-ahead goal in Saturday’s game.
It was a regrettable sequence, to say the least, but one the Sounders ultimately managed to overcome. Gonzalo Pineda converted a late penalty and Frei made a couple big saves down the stretch, and the Sounders scratched out a 2-2 draw in Vancouver.
“When he was called upon to make those saves, he made the saves,” said Brad Evans, who was playing center back at the time of the goal. “He was eager to keep the ball in bounds so that we could push. Away from home, maybe it’s a little bit safer than sorry. Also, myself and Zach [Scott] need to drop back as soon as he pushes out of the goal. It was a rookie mistake on our part for not dropping back in. That’s an easy clearance off the line.
“We’ll get that right. He’ll never do it again.”
Frei took responsibility for the mistake even if others wanted to spread blame around.
"Very frustrating, because our effort was there,” Frei said after the game. “Disappointed with my own performance. I made good saves and whatnot, but just a stupid little error. Just have to be a bit smarter. It's not that I didn’t make a save that I was supposed to make or anything like that. Just like I said, a stupid error.”
Aside from the rather massive gaffe, Frei deserves credit for making a host of impressive saves. Twice he was able to stop Kekutah Manneh on close-range chances -- including in a one-on-one situation shortly before the Whitecaps’ go-ahead goal. Frei also had a pair of big saves in stoppage time to preserve the point, first stopping Koffie on a chance inside the penalty area and then diving to his right to keep out another shot from the Whitecaps midfielder on the game’s final play.
“That's the life of a goalkeeper: you make one little error and it can cost you the game,” Frei said. “The thing is you have so much time to think about that error, but you have to just let it go since there is so much time to be played. It is what it is, but definitely have to eliminate those mistakes."