TORONTO — After three years spent as the undeniable starting goalkeeper and one of the best young prospects in Major League Soccer, Stefan Frei’s days in Toronto could be numbered after the club’s latest personnel move.
The Reds added a fourth goalkeeper to their roster on Friday – third-stringer Chris Konopka arrives via trade with the Philadelphia Union – and with the numbers swelling, Frei could be on his way out when his contract expires after this season.
Frei has not started for the Reds since the 2011 season, his third straight run as Toronto’s top option in net. He suffered a broken leg during the 2012 preseason and has not been able to supplant Joe Bendik for the starting spot this year.
“It is kind of just a matter of circumstances with Stefan,” TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “He is such a good guy and such a great goalkeeper and he wants to be a No. 1. He deserves to be a number one and he is a number one in this league.
"With his contract up at the end of the year and with Joe doing so well, it is a very difficult situation. But it is a situation where I think if Stefan gets the right chance, he can potentially be a number one on a team.”
While Frei has not made a league appearance this season, Nelsen was quick to state that the door for him to return next season has not closed completely.
“His contract is up and if he stays, he stays,” Nelsen said. “That’s up to Stefan. As I said, he wants to play football. What I love about him is he is such a good professional. He comes to work every day and works hard and tries to get better and pushes Joe all the time. It is such comfortable feeling knowing that if anything happens to Joe, you have someone like Stefan there.”
Konopka has appeared in two MLS games since he was originally drafted by Kansas City in 2007. He left the league following his rookie season and played professionally in Ireland until he returned to MLS in 2011.
“This was not a decision that was made off the cuff,” Nelsen said. “It has been months and months of due diligence on Chris. When the opportunity finally arose to get him, we snapped him up.”
The arrival of Konopka also pushes current third string keeper and TFC Academy graduate Quillan Roberts further down the team’s depth chart. According to Nelsen, the Toronto native will likely be loaned out to gain more experience in 2014.
“It might not look it, but Quillan is only 19 years old, which is very young for a goalkeeper,” Nelsen stated. “We see a lot of promise in him. [Goalkeeping coach] Stewart Kerr brought him out of nowhere really and has turned him into such a promising young goalkeeper. However, that is a position at which you mature at a later age than other positions.”