TUKWILA, Wash. — As the Seattle Sounders prepare for back-to-back road matches, goalkeeper Stefan Frei is grateful for the points the team picked up last week at home, and hopeful that momentum continues as the squad heads to California to take on the LA Galaxy.
Speaking with reporters after practice Monday, Frei referenced the need to build off the six points they picked up last week. “I've said this before, if you're trying to get the train rolling, you’ve got to do it at home first. That's where it starts and that's where you build your confidence. You get your points, and hopefully all that can lead you to some good performances on the road.”
Saturday’s match against San Jose was positive not just for the three points, but because the team earned a shutout while integrating two new players along the backline—Nouhou, who earned just his third-ever MLS start, and the newly signed Kelvin Leerdam. For Frei, the defensive performance was a testament to the versatility and depth on the squad, as well as the skill of the newcomers and what they allow the team to do offensively.
“Before, even we had JJ (Joevin Jones) pushing out of the left back position quite a lot, and him getting actually quite a few assists that way. Now, having Nouhou back there is almost a luxury. We can push JJ a tiny bit higher, and Nouhou still gets involved as well, so it's a double threat on the left.”
Frei acknowledged that the right side has the same potential—as long as players can stay healthy. “If we can stay healthy in the right, it’s the same thing there, because Kelvin picks his spots wisely and Brad is dangerous up there as well. So I think those are very dangerous positions and we have good personnel in those positions.”
In a season as long as MLS, it’s critical that teams have the depth to make these kind of adjustments and still pick up points. “The season is very, very long and people go down. There's call ups, there's suspensions, there's who knows what,” Frei said. “You won't be able to field your preferred 11 at all times. It's good to know that we can swap people in that are more than capable of doing a good job.”
While he was a key part of the shutout the team earned on Sunday, the Sounders goalkeeper and 2017 MLS All Star was in an unusual place for the mid-week game against DC United. He joined Ozzie Alonso in a suite at CenturyLink Field after picking up a hip flexor strain, and took in the action from above the field. Watching the game from that vantage point was eye-opening for Frei in many ways.
“It's totally different — tactically, seeing the holes, especially when we're trying to play out of the back or connect from the back. And when we do go wide, instead of just maintaining possession in the back, how do we break the next line?” Frei also notes that it was good to sit next to Alonso to discuss the game, something the two are rarely able to do in the match, “as obviously he sees things different than me as well.”
Now that Frei is rested and reports feeling good, he’s hoping to help Seattle get three more points against the Galaxy, a team currently struggling at home—with a 1-6-3 record at StubHub Center. But for Frei, these kind of statistics don’t matter.
“Maybe they're struggling a little bit right now, but it's LA Galaxy. I guarantee you they'll make a push at some point, and they'll get into playoffs. They're always a dangerous team, I think you'd be a fool to count them out.”