Photo: Frei the clear ball winner while Finley extends his leg to catch the keeper with his boot (Getty)
ORLANDO, FL – Leave it to the longest serving Red to remind Toronto FC fans again of his value and just why they call him ‘Super’ Stefan Frei.
Fearlessly the Toronto goalkeeper charged off his line and out of the box with Columbus Crew forward Ryan Finley chasing down a long pass on way to goal during Saturday’s first preseason match in Orlando, Florida. Toronto already down 1-0, Frei didn’t hesitate to put himself on the line to help TFC stay in the game.
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Video: Stefan Frei on Toronto FC TV.
The end result: Frei was first to the ball, received Finley’s boot to the side of his nose, left a pool of blood on the pitch - all possibly to save a goal before being taken to the hospital for further tests.
“I talked to (goalkeeper coach) Stewart (Kerr) before, I want to get put into as many uncomfortable situations as possible,” Frei joked with Toronto FC TV. “That one was probably as uncomfortable as it gets.”
“My face against his boot, obviously he is going to be the winner.”
Frei is no stranger to discomfort. Nearly a year ago the keeper broke his ankle in training when colliding with a teammate in an attempt to win a ball, forcing him to the sidelines for virtually all of 2012. Months of rehabilitation paved the way for his return on Saturday, only to be reminded again the hazards of playing with passion. For TFC fans, coaches and staff, the build-up to the Finley collision was a fear-inducing ‘here we go again’ moment, but Frei wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Absolutely I need to put myself on the line. You play the way you practice,” Frei said when quizzed if it was the wisest decision to make that play in preseason, when the team needs his services long beyond the Disney Classic in Orlando.
The keeper needed to know that he has the courage to take on any development on the pitch and for that he is satisfied. Last season many fans charged Toronto to be void of the kind of pride and sacrifice shown by Frei. On his return, there was no shortage of these traits Saturday.
“I knew it was going to be painful as soon as I saw him going in with his boot, but that’s just what it is.”
The colourful mark left on his face by Finley’s studs does hold one positive.
“(My) attractiveness level probably went from 4 to a solid 4.5 … can’t complain.”