Watching the MLS Cup final live, Stefan Frei’s incredible save against Jozy Altidore’s (almost equally incredible) header in the second period of extra time looked pretty amazing. But upon seeing replays, that save must be one of the best that’s ever occurred in an MLS Cup final. Frei’s Sounders teammate Chad Marshall admitted after the match that it was the best save he’d ever witnessed in person.
That’s not just hyperbole. Watch:
That may have been Frei’s best moment, but it was also just one of several. Frei ended up with seven saves — one shy of the MLS Cup final record — and that doesn’t include his stop of Michael Bradley in the penalty shootout while earning the game’s MVP honors. He also made several strong plays on corners and crosses, commanding his area much as he had all year.
Add all the outside factors into Frei’s game, and you’ve got yourself quite a narrative. The Sounders goalkeeper spent five years in Toronto after being drafted by them in 2009; even though he didn’t leave on bad terms, being the hero against an old team has to feel pretty good. Frei had some injury issues that kept him from his best in Toronto, and as Brian Schmetzer mentioned, a “fresh start” might just have been what Frei needed.
Talking about his time in Toronto, Frei said that he was happy to get chances very early on after being drafted by the team, but injuries and the team’s struggles made it difficult. “You play to win, and during my time here I had limited success, which made it difficult.” He praised the fans and the success that Toronto FC has had in recent seasons, but made a point of saying that he’s focused on Seattle and that this victory would have been just as sweet if it was against any other MLS team.
Tom Dutra, the Sounders’ longtime goalkeeping coach said about Frei’s big save, “I haven’t seen better in a final. Not a final.” He, like many, noted Altidore’s excellent header: “I thought he beat us, you gotta give Jozy some credit.” Schmetzer even said he thought the ball was destined to go into the back of the net: “yeah, it looked like it was gonna go in, but here comes his big paw and he gets ahold of it.”
Frei is known as one of the more amicable, humble players on the squad—so it’s not surprising that his first words about the save were praise for Altidore’s header. “Well done by Jozy, trying to go against the side I’m coming from, it’s exactly how you want to hit that one.” He then said that it was admittedly one of those shots that could go either way, but that as a goalkeeper (and in a big match like this), he just had to try. Frei’s next words were more praise for others—this time for Dutra and his fellow Sounders goalkeepers, Charlie Lyon and Tyler Miller. “That save is an accumulation of the hard work that we put in as a keeper unit.”
In the end, Frei waxed a bit eloquent about the match and the effect his save had on the history that was made in BMO Field on Saturday. “We had a chance to make history, this is what you live for.” He brought up an example that he’s mentioned a couple times in the last couple weeks, and it says a lot about how he looks at his career as a soccer player:
“When you go to the San Siro (home to Milan’s two biggest teams) and you get a tour of the stadium, at some point you’re going to come through and see that black and white picture of the team that won the first trophy. MLS is pretty young, the teams are fairly young, so you can make history. Granted, the picture probably won’t be black and white, but this is what you want to be a part of. We made Sounders history and for me, it could have happened anywhere, as long as I’m with my team and my teammates. I’m so proud of them.”