It is hard to believe it has been seven years already. Seven years since Stefan Frei joined the Seattle Sounders. Back in 2014 he was a goalkeeper with all the tools in the world, but lacking confidence after injuries led to a difficult couple of years with Toronto FC.
Nowadays Frei is a club legend. A two-time MLS Cup champion, team leader, fan favorite, elite MLS goalkeeper, and — oh, yeah — the guy who delivered the most iconic save in MLS Cup history.
He’s going to be around a few years longer. Asked on Wednesday for an update on negotiations to extend his expiring contract, Frei announced that he has signed an extension “for a decent amount” of time. A club source later confirmed to SBI that the extension runs for three seasons, through 2023.
“I don’t make it a secret,” Frei said, “that my family and I, we love it here. We’ve been accepted here as adopted Seattleites very, very, quickly. We love it here. My wife has found an amazing team to work with for herself as well, in Seattle. And the dogs love it. So it was a no-brainer for me to try and stay here if it was possible, and we were able to come to an agreement that keeps me here for a decent amount [of time] to hopefully get some more chances at trophies for this team and for myself.”
Frei, who turns 35 on Tuesday, holds every major club goalkeeping record, was the 2015 and 2019 team defender of the year, the 2018 team MVP, and has been an MLS All-Star. For a club that prioritizes off-the-field contributions, it is no small thing that he has also twice been named the club’s humanitarian of the year. In all he has made nearly a thousand saves in 329 league starts.
And Frei shows little indication of slowing down. Last year he allowed just 23 goals in 22 starts for a stingy Sounders’ defense. After playing the last two matches of 2020 with a torn shoulder adductor, Frei looked noticeably slimmer on Wednesday in his first (virtual) media availability of the season. He acknowledged using the preseason to work on his body.
“It was a good time,” Frei said, “to reshape my body a little bit, go down in weight, gain a little bit of explosiveness.”
The contract will keep Frei in a Sounders’ uniform until he is at least 37. While that is getting up there in years even for a goalkeeper, if anything Frei has only been getting better and healthier with age.
“As I’ve been getting older I’ve missed less and less games,” Frei said on Wednesday. “I’ve accrued injuries throughout these years, but they’ve never really held me back. I’ve been able to fight through them and play through them. So they’re smaller injuries, so that’s a good thing. I think it’s very important to be able to be available for teams. Obviously, I wanna play every minute. The minutes are precious. I think the older you get the more you realize, you know, at some point this will be done. So I want to play every minute possible.”