Stefan Frei will start Saturday’s game, his first appearance since May 12 when he left the game with a knee injury that eventually developed into blood clots.
“Stef’s going to start, he’s going to start,” Schmetzer said, noting that Frei had been in line to potentially feature in the Sounders’ previous game until the goalkeeper was hit in the side of the head with an errant kick.
Frei’s return could be a significant boost to the Sounders, who have maintained a league-best defense in his absence but have also struggled to keep clean sheets at home in recent games. The Sounders have allowed seven goals in their past four home games, including two somewhat embarrassing goals in their most recent loss to the Timbers. Both were the product of some miscommunication and tentative play that might have been avoided with a more experienced goalkeeper.
Despite those hiccups, Stefan Cleveland and Spencer Richey have done an admirable job in Frei’s place. Cleveland’s 1.13 goals against average is tied for ninth best among qualified goalkeepers and Richey has posted shutouts in both of his starts. Still, it’s worth noting that no goalkeeper who has faced at least 10 shots this year has outperformed their Expected Goals Allowed on a per game basis by more than Frei. Only Matt Turner — currently the USMNT’s No. 1 — has performed better versus his xGA over the last four years.