SEATTLE – The Seattle Sounders’ starting goalkeeper battle is apparently over – at least for now.
Coming off a shutout in his Sounders debut, Stefan Frei will get the call in Saturday’s nationally televised game against Toronto FC (4:30 pm ET; NBCSN, TSN/RDS2 in Canada). It marks the first time since Michael Gspurning lost his status as undisputed starter late last season that Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid was willing to publicly call someone his No. 1 goalkeeper.
“I think it was a situation where Stefan was a little more consistent for me in the games we played,” Schmid told reporters on Thursday, emphasizing that it was a close competition with veteran Marcus Hahnemann and that things could change. “We’ll go a game at a time. Stefan did well to get a shutout in his first game, and I know he’s looking forward to this game against his old club. But I think we have a very capable backup in Marcus.”
Frei’s start in the opener was just his second league appearance since injuries cost him his starting job at Toronto FC following the 2011 season. His shutout was his first since June 29, 2011.
The prospect of having to continually win the position doesn’t seem to faze Frei in the least.
“All of our goalkeepers are really capable, and they all have their own strengths,” Frei said. “I hope it’s going to continue like this throughout the year. Marcus and Josh [Ford] can hopefully push me and I can hopefully push them and we can grow together. We can all improve, and that will make the team better.”
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One of the traits for which the Sounders have continuously praised Frei is his willingness to learn. Goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra has gone so far as to call the 27-year-old a “sponge.”
Rather than view Hahnemann as competition, Frei seems eager to glean as much as he can from the World Cup veteran.
“You’d have a hard time finding a goalkeeper with the experience of Marcus,” Frei said. “I’m going to try to soak it all in and just learn from him. He played in some of the best leagues in the world. It’s a bit of a unique situation for sure. Some teams prefer to have just one goalkeeper who’s the clear cut No. 1, and others like to have competition all over.
"I welcome the competition. It’s going to make me better and make everyone else better.”