TORONTO – There have been two constants for Toronto FC over the past two-and-a-half years: Roster turnover in the outfield, and Stefan Frei turning out week after week at goalkeeper.
Things have been reversed in the past month, however. As TFC have solidified their lineup thanks to some mid-season acquisitions, they’ve had to make do without Frei, who hasn’t played since Toronto’s 3-3 draw against D.C. United on Aug. 6.
In training a few days after that game he suffered a bruised knee and backup Milos Kocic - who had not played at all this season - took over and excelled.
Now Frei is fit and has been training with the club. And he’s expected to resume his place in the lineup as Toronto look for their first-ever league win over Columbus Crew on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“I don’t know, but I think yes,” is what head coach Aron Winter said when asked if Frei will be the gameday starter.
Frei was on the bench for Toronto’s last game, the 1-1 tie with the San Jose Earthquakes at BMO Field on Aug. 27 while Kocic played. But the Swiss ‘keeper is feeling fitter now, and is raring to go.
“I feel good, I feel 100 percent healthy,” Frei said.
Kocic has played Toronto’s past three Major League Soccer matches. He also has played all four of Toronto’s CONCACAF Champions League games, an assignment he drew before Frei’s injury.
Despite the competition for the starting role, there’s no animosity between the two keepers. Frei and Kocic train together every day, helping each other. No one knows Kocic better than Frei and no one was surprised less at how well he has performed.
“He’s been fantastic for us,” Frei said. “For me it’s no surprise. I see him play all day. I see his work ethic, how he comes out ready to play. It’s not easy to be on the bench for a long time but he comes prepared every single time to make sure that when he’s called up he is ready and he’s been showing that for sure.”
It’s a busy job being TFC’s keeper. Despite missing three games, Frei is second in the league in saves with 97 in 25 games. Only Matt Reis of the New England Revolution has more with 100 in 23 games entering the weekend.