TUKWILA, Wash. — Another international break has come, and once again Stefan Frei did not hear a word from U.S. Soccer about a potential call-up. Despite having one of the greatest statistical season (seriously just give that link a read) in MLS history, Frei has had virtually no contact with the United States national team since he participated in a preseason camp two Januaries ago. Ironically, that was before he was even eligible to play for the USA. Frei became a U.S. citizen later in 2017.
“None really,” Frei said rather matter-of-factly when asked what kind of communication he’s had since then. “I don’t think it’s up to the player to each out. I haven’t been contacted. I’ve been watching games, though, so that’s been fun. I’m just focused on the Sounders and enjoying my play here.”
Given that the Seattle Sounders had two games affected by this break and are already somewhat short-handed while still fighting for a playoff spot, his lack of a call-up was probably just fine with him and is almost certainly preferable for Sounders coaches.
What’s surely more frustrating is that that while U.S. Soccer is calling in all sorts of fringe players just to give them a look, Frei has been routinely passed over while putting up numbers as good or better than other goalkeepers who are routinely called in.
The simple explanation is that Frei is considered “too old” to be effectively just starting his international career. But at 32, Frei is younger — and playing better — than USMNT regular Brad Guzan. When the next World Cup rolls around, Frei will be 36; Tim Howard was the regular starter during the last cycle at 38.
Frei is also dramatically outperforming the likes of fellow MLS goalkeepers Zack Steffen and Alex Bono. Ethan Horvath, who was called into this camp, has only logged 46 minutes for Club Brugge this season.
Although the goalkeeper pool has usually been one of the USA’s deeper positions, no one has come remotely close to putting a solid claim on the starting spot. Not even seriously considering the goalkeeper who is having the best season — and who has been among the best in MLS for several years — seems like a gross oversight.