The Seattle Sounders’ epic 4-0 win over FC Dallas on Sunday was big for a lot of reasons. It clinched their trip to the MLS Cup playoffs for the ninth consecutive season, got forward Will Bruin back in scoring form, and it showed that the club is fully committed to defending their first Cup title. But the result was significant for another major reason that got a little lost amongst the hubbub: Stefan Frei recorded his 12th shutout of the season, a Seattle Sounders franchise record.
The Sounders ‘keeper was humble, as usual, when asked about his achievement. “It’s a team effort. There’s nothing I can do by myself. Sometimes it gets put on the goalkeeper but if we need to be successful we need all 11 guys who are on the pitch at the time to defend.” Even though he wasn’t called on too often in the club’s drubbing of FC Dallas, Frei’s presence and leadership contributed to the clean sheet about as much as his saves did.
Frei also showed how aware he was of the team’s achievement in context with the rest of the league, namely Sporting Kansas City, who have allowed the fewest goals in MLS but only notched 10 shutouts so far. “It really starts with strikers up top and of course today I had not much to do, we did really really well. And not only did we set that record but I think we are also out of reach of [Sporting Kansas City] in terms of shutouts for 2017 which is a massive achievement.”
Midfielder Cristian Roldan, who is never short on compliments for his teammates, praised Frei for being more than just a shot-stopper. “Yeah, he does more than just goalkeep, he dictates where he should be. He’s a perfectionist. You appreciate that.” Roldan said that having a leader like Frei behind him gives him the mental security that his back line is properly organized and aware, so that he can focus on his duties in midfield. “Coming from a defensive mid, he keeps me in check and for the team he keeps us organized. He’s extremely vocal, on the other end he makes incredible saves and keeps us in games that maybe we shouldn’t be in.”
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer was also effusive with praise for Frei, saying “I think [Frei] is arguably goalkeeper of the year. He has come up consistently in big games. Stef makes the key saves when we need him to." He might not have had the flashiest season, but between this achievement and moments like his recent save against Fredy Montero that won Save of the Week, Frei certainly deserves to be in the end-of-season awards conversation.