Stefan Frei struggles to hold onto spot in goal for Sounders
Is it time for the Sounders to change goalkeepers following Stefan Frei’s blunder in Vancouver? “It’s something we’ll evaluate,” said coach Sigi Schmid.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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TUKWILA – As the final seconds ticked away Saturday, Sounders FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei made a sprawling save to deny a powerfully driven shot from Vancouver’s Gershon Koffie and preserve a 2-2 tie.
The effort was recognized by the league Tuesday as one of five nominees for MLS Save of the Week, yet the standout play is easily forgotten along with Frei’s three other saves.
The memory that easily comes to mind, of course, is Frei’s admitted “stupid error,” when he left his goal in the 66th minute and kicked the ball upfield, only to have Koffie gather it and fire a long-range shot into a wide-open net.
“Defensive positions are always difficult in the sense that you can play 99 percent of the game great, and that one little error — all of a sudden it’s a goal — and you look bad,” said coach Sigi Schmid. “Psychologically, it’s a much tougher position to be in.”
Such is the life of a goalkeeper.
But this wasn’t the first puzzling error of the season for Frei, who leads the league in wins but also ranks in the bottom half in goals-against average (1.62) and save percentage (65). The 28-year-old, acquired in an offseason trade with Toronto, also made highlight reels for the wrong reason when he let a ball bounce over his head last month, leading to a goal for FC Dallas.
So it is time for a goalkeeper change? A growing sentiment among fans is that it might be, and former U.S. international Marcus Hahnemann, a 41-year-old Seattle native, is ready as the backup.
“It’s something we’ll evaluate, and there is constantly competition in that position,” said Schmid, who offered veiled answers when asked to assess Frei’s season and whether Frei would start Saturday against unbeaten Real Salt Lake.
Schmid added that the position has been the topic of discussion with goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra: “We’ll see how we move forward,” Schmid said. “We’ve got two more games before the break, and we’ll see what we do in those two games.”
Frei is the only Sounder to have played every minute this season.
For Dutra, an unfortunate aspect to the blunder was Frei had otherwise played a good game to that point. Additionally, the result-preserving stop on Koffie at the end was an example of what Frei and Dutra had been working on as the season has progressed — getting in good positions to make good saves.
Tuesday’s practice, though, was no time to dwell.
“You learn and you move on and train hard,” Dutra said.
It remains to be seen if the Sounders will be moving on in the short term with or without Frei.
Dutra, like Schmid, noted the word “competition” is apt for the position, as always: “There are no guarantees in any of this. You guys come out and train as hard as you can and see what happens, but take care of yourself and play well.”
• Defender Djimi Traore was set to undergo an MRI Tuesday for a groin injury suffered in Vancouver; the results weren’t made immediately available. Chad Marshall (illness) has not returned to practice but Lamar Neagle (hamstring) is back training.
• Osvaldo Alonso earned his fourth yellow card of the season over the weekend. He’ll be suspended one game upon his next caution unless he goes three games without a yellow card, triggering the league’s Good Behavior Incentive.
• Taylor Graham will fill in for color commentator Kasey Keller on the broadcast Saturday. Keller will be doing broadcast work for ESPN for a while in the buildup to the World Cup.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184
On Twitter @joshuamayers