TORONTO – Over the past two MLS Cup Playoff campaigns, Seattle Sounders players have made a habit of delivering great performances against their former teams.
Last year, goalkeeper Stefan Frei’s acrobatic save denied Jozy Altidore and preserved a 0-0 scoreline in extra time of MLS Cup. The Sounders eventually beat Toronto on penalty kicks, thanks in part to Frei’s save on Michael Bradley’s spot kick.
Toronto selected the Swiss-born Frei in the first round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft and plugged him straight into the team. He spent five seasons with the Reds before being traded to Seattle in 2014.
Since then, Frei has been spectacular, particularly when the playoffs come around. Frei and the Sounders have not allowed a goal in four postseason games so far this year, extending a streak that dates back to the opening leg of last season’s Western Conference Championship.
Frei, who led the league with 13 shutouts in the regular season, hasn’t surrendered a goal since a 2-0 defeat to Philadelphia in October.
“He’s made a habit of keeping us in games, making big saves,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said after his team practiced in Toronto on Thursday. “It’s a testament to his hard work.”
Frei added to his list of spectacular saves in September when he dove to his left to push powerful free kick by Vancouver’s Fredy Montero onto the crossbar, preserving a 1-0 Sounders lead. Seattle went on to win the match 3-0, and Frei’s eye-popping denial earned top spot on ESPN SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Plays.”
Frei is generally remembered fondly by Toronto’s rabid supporters, even though the Reds were mostly rotten during the goalie’s days in Canada.
“I realize I was very fortunate when I started my career here and I was able to play right away,” Frei said Thursday. “The fans were always great to me, especially considering that the results on the field weren’t very good.”
Given the role he played in denying Toronto an MLS Cup crown last year, Frei’s reception at Saturday’s rematch might not be so good, either.
“I expect their fans to want to win with their team just as much as I want to win with my team” Frei said. “I wish the Toronto fans that I’m close with nothing but the best but obviously, in a game like this, I want Seattle to win.”