TUKWILA, Wash. – Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei is the reigning MLS Cup MVP, and further established himself as one of the league’s steadier presences between the goalposts with another standout campaign in 2017.
But when it came to this year’s MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award voting, the 31-year-old veteran didn’t get a lot of love.
Sporting Kansas City’s Tim Melia won this year’s GOTY honors in a landslide, with 50.29 percent of the vote. And although Frei was named as one of this season’s finalists, he wound up finishing a distant third, coming in just below Philadelphia’s Andre Blake at 8.24 percent.
So, did the Sounders’ stalwart backstop have a shout for – at the very least – a greater share of the vote than that?
“There are lots of goalkeepers that deserved it and put in good shifts this year and deserved it,” Frei said after Seattle’s training session at Starfire Sports Complex on Saturday.
“I feel like I’ve never really gotten recognition in this league, so I didn’t really expect it. I’m happy that the people who really matter to me value my contributions to the squad and my ability and I’m hoping to get some team trophies.”
Frei, for his part, has also been effusive of his praise in Melia whenever he’s been asked about the SKC standout. When Frei was announced as a selection to the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target earlier this season, he even went as far as to say that he felt Melia had been the best ‘keeper in the league and was equally deserving of a spot on the All-Star roster.
Even so, Frei said he can still use his relatively low vote share this season as a bit of extra motivation as he turns his focus back to Seattle’s current run in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup playoffs.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Athletes look for motivation in every spot you can … whatever it may be. It may not even be just. It doesn’t really matter. We look for an edge wherever we can get it. I’ll try to prove that I’ve had a good season and I’ll continue to have a good season.”
A repeat MLS Cup championship would surely be the more important honor for Frei and his Sounders teammates, who will take on the Houston Dynamo in Leg 1 of the Western Conference championship on Tuesday at BBVA Compass Stadium (9:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes in USA; TSN1/3, TVAS in Canada).
It’s a matchup that will put Frei and the Sounders’ defense to the test, with Houston one of the more dynamic counterattacking teams in MLS.
“We’re going to have to be mindful of the space in behind. But at the same time we’re going to have to make sure we don’t allow guys to turn in the midfield and start running at us,” Frei said. “They like to take chances up top, whether it’s off one of our corners, maybe they’ll leave some guys up top and see if they can catch something.
“At the same time, if they would like to cheat, let’s punish them. Let’s make them adjust to how we want to play. And if they don’t, we have to have the quality to take care of those chances and those advantages and put them away.”