TORONTO – Stefan Frei feels it's time for Toronto FC to start collecting wins. And he's not too fussy about how they come.
“If you want to see beautiful things, then go see a circus,” the goalkeeper said after training on Tuesday. “I’m not a circus kind of guy. I want to win, this is competition. And we take things very seriously. The bottom line is wins.”
No player has felt the pain of Toronto FC’s futility more than Frei. As he enters his fifth season with the club, he is TFC's longest-tenured player and has made the most appearances in all competitions for the Reds.
TFC have yet to reach the playoffs in their six years of existence, and the 26-year-old hopes that can change this season as he returns from a broken leg that ended his 2012 campaign last March.
“Sometimes fans or people from the outside, they want to see beautiful soccer,” said Frei. “I don’t care about beautiful soccer, I want to see wins. It doesn’t matter how ugly it is.”
The wins have been rare indeed for Toronto FC. They earned just five in the league in 2012 and six in 2011. They did reach the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League last year, and won their fourth consecutive Canadian Championship.
That limited taste of success has Frei craving more winning.
“You get addicted to it,” he said. “And when you have a long withdrawal from it, the food tastes lousy, you’re in a bad mood all day. It affects your whole life.”
Frei’s only game last season was the 2-2 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy last March 7 in the first leg of the CCL quarterfinals. He suffered a fractured left fibula and torn ankle ligaments that required surgery while training at BMO Field on March 23.
The Swiss national is “very happy” with the progress he has made coming back from the injury.
“We’ve been doing ‘keeper sessions now for five or six days and the hands are already spot-on, and that is allowing me to build my confidence,” he said. “Obviously, there are the tricky things of the game situations – reading the play, when you step out, crossing and things like that – those are going to have to come from games.”
Frei said he felt helpless as he watched last season unfold, first under head coach Aron Winter and then from June under Paul Mariner. Neither is with the team entering this season as Ryan Nelsen takes over the helm.
“Being injured sucks, not being able to play and on top of that, not being able to help out your teammates, seeing them suffer more than me,” Frei said. “I had my own things to worry about, I wanted to help [but] there wasn’t much I could do.”