Frei A Constant In A Season Of Change

It’s not easy to find many constants in this season of change for Toronto FC.

Director of Soccer Mo Johnston has brought in a new coach, new players and a new assistant manager to earn the franchise its first-ever postseason berth, with mixed results more than a month into the season.
But perhaps the team’s most stable presence is its most surprising one. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei has proven to be model of consistency in just his second season, and his play has held TFC together during a decidedly rough start.

“Mentally he’s very, very strong,” TFC goalkeeper coach Mike Toshack said. “Which means when things are going really well for him, he’s the same. When things aren’t going well, he’s the same. So he’s very level headed.”

The fact that Frei, 24, is only in his second full season makes this all the more remarkable. Drafted in 2009 as a Generaton adidas product with an eye on someday replacing veteran Greg Sutton, the Swiss-born Frei has already exhibited maturity on the field well beyond his years.

Despite his young age, Frei is a vocal force in organizing his teammates, and has not been afraid to give an earful to veterans after a defensive breakdown.

He isn’t overly blessed in size or height, standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 195 pounds. He’s strayed from the brash or flamboyant flash that can hinder young players, and has proven to be a testament to solid fundamental goalkeeping.

“There are things that I can always do better, and I think that’s something that makes me play okay every game, because I know my faults and the things I do wrong every game,” Frei said. “I try to come out in practice and correct those [mistakes] and work on them, but I’m far from consistent as I want to be, that’s for sure. Definitely, if I can give that sense to my back four that I am consistent and there to bail them out, that’s good because that’s important. But I have a long ways to go.”
Frei was the club’s top pick (13th overall) in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, and surprisingly beat out the incumbent Sutton in preseason training for the starting job. Sutton was eventually released, and Frei went on to enjoy a solid rookie season with 26 starts and five shutouts, and was named the team’s Defender of the Year.

He’s started all six games in net this season, keeping TFC in games with a number of big saves that could have made their 12 goals allowed substantially worse.

“He’s very strong mentally, which allows him to perform consistently at a good level,” Toshack said. “And he’s always learning, and he’s getting better with each game. And the more games he plays the better and better he’s going to be, but for me, that consistency is due to his mental strength.”

And Frei has new influences in the additions of former Chivas USA goalkeeper Jon Conway and D.C. United ‘keeper Milos Kocic.

“They work extremely hard and we feed off each other like that," Frei said. "We’re very vocal among each other and we give each other pointers. It doesn’t matter if you’re the first, second or third guy, where you came from, how long you’ve been in the league. Everyone has their own style, so it’s important to share that and learn from each other.”