SEATTLE – Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei had an uncharacteristic blunder against the Philadelphia Union Wednesday night, leading to a bizarre 1-0 loss in front of 39,536 at CenturyLink Field. After the game, though, teammates and coaches were not pointing the finger at the goalkeeper, who has otherwise put together a season that might garner Goalkeeper of the Year attention.
“Stef has saved our asses a bunch of times, more than we can imagine,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “(Goalkeepers) have a very tenuous position since if they make a mistake it usually costs a goal. That’s not where we lost the game. Not on that singular play. Where we lost the game was generating chance and chance and chance and not finding that one piece of quality to score one in our favor.”
The Sounders outshot the Union 16-8, but the visitors held the advantage in shots on target, 5-4. Several promising Seattle chances were turned wide, either by the woodwork in the case of Raul Ruidiaz and Victor Rodriguez or by Philadelphia keeper Andre Blake.
”This wasn’t (Frei’s) fault by any means,” midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “For me, I put this game on players like myself who can’t finish opportunities. We put Stef in that situation. We’re not chasing that game if we put two goals away in the first 20 minutes.”
Roldan whiffed on a promising chance in the 76th minute, failing to reach a cross from Kelvin Leerdam at the near post. Will Bruin slid to try and meet the ball at the back post, but couldn’t redirect the ball into the net.
At the final whistle, Roman Torres was the first to approach the keeper, helping him to his feet after the disappointing end to a historic win streak.
“Roman has always been a team guy,” Schmetzer said of the centerback. “Since he’s been here he’s been a big part of this club. For him, that’s the normal course of business. Even when he’s not playing, he will still provide leadership. That doesn’t surprise me a bit. I think if you go down through the team, they’re all supportive of Stef. That stuff happens. Everybody to a tee was building him up because he’s taking that pretty hard. He’s a very competitive guy and that’s going to sting.”
His teammates and coaches may not feel Frei is responsible for the loss, but now the keeper faces the difficult task of making things right with the man in the mirror.
“That play is going to be on a loop for a bit, and it needs to be,” Frei said. “You can’t be like, ‘That doesn’t faze me.’ It’s not how you really move past it. I’ve made many mistakes in my career, but I’ve figured out how to cope with most of them now. It doesn’t make it any easier, trust me.
“I have to deal with it. I will. I’ll show up to work to get better. It’s really nice to know that (goalkeeper coach Tommy Dutra) will be there and the other goalkeepers and my teammates to push me and keep going and get ready for the next game.”