When the Gold Cup preliminary roster came out earlier this month, Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei was not on it. It’s important to note that Frei is not yet a citizen of the United States. On Tuesday, that could change. “I’m doing my test tomorrow. So, if everything goes well I’ll be sworn in tomorrow,” Frei told media after Monday’s practice session.
Frei keeps in regular contact with USMNT keeper coach Matt Reis, and since Frei and Bruce Arena have the same agent, communication with the national team coach is a breeze.
Stefan is confident in passing the test, crediting his wife with tutoring him. “I’ve had the best teacher in my wife. She loves sticking it to me when I’m not getting the answers verbatim and perfectly right, so she’s been a good teacher, a good study partner. I think I got it.”
Frei just undertook another American tradition - throwing out the first pitch. Prior to Sunday’s Seattle Mariners game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the keeper took the mound and with foot on the rubber nailed the target.
Steeeeerike! @Stefan24Frei with the first pitch at yesterday's @mariners game. pic.twitter.com/gfkX48G8wa— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) June 12, 2017
He didn’t grow up around baseball. In fact, he and his childhood friends in Switzerland didn’t even know what to do with one. “I’ve probably thrown one, like — I remember my dad, when we used to live in Switzerland, used to do a lot of business in the US and he brought back a signed Yankees ball. Me and my brother probably threw it around in the backyard, but I brought it to school and no one had any idea what it was. ‘What are we supposed to do with this?’ Other than that Matt [Sounders PR staff] and myself got out last week for a couple of throws and that was it. Then I got to toss it in there and I didn’t ‘do the 50-Cent’ as I was told.”
Unlike a lot of Mariners fans, the Sounder appreciated the large traveling contingent, even if it hurt the home field advantage.
“It’s good for the game that there’s so many passionate fans. Our fans travel really well for the Sounders and it’s good to see in baseball. Yesterday, the atmosphere was great. You’d rather want the home team to have home field advantage, but still there’s something right with the atmosphere and the experience if Blue Jays fans keep coming down here and make it a good weekend trip. I thought it was a good atmosphere and really nice to throw the first pitch, yeah.”