By: Mike Newell
I first have to admit some personal bias as I live and work in Toronto and I get to see Frei every week, either at BMO field or on T.V. Those of us who have been able to watch and cover Toronto FC over the past two seasons have see the rapid maturation and development potential top notch goal keeper and a true number 1.
When you think of up and coming talent in the game, the goalkeeper position is usually not one of the “sexy” choices for fans. Usually we like to see who the next great striker is; or that creative midfielder that can light up the field with passes. However it is important to note that when a club finds or develops a top level keeper, that club tends to be a constant contender for silverware. It’s rare that a keeper fresh out of college establishes himself as the number 1, however this is what Stefan Frei did in his first full season in 2009.
Stefan possesses many of the tools that are required to become a top keeper. First his command of the penalty area is excellent for a player his age. Although he is still learning to master this skill, he’s fearless in collecting the ball either from a corner or on errant through balls. Frei also has great command of his defenders in front of him, to be honest many of the goals allowed by Frei can be chalked up to poor defending. If the club can put better defenders in front of him for the upcoming season, he could carry the club to its first playoff birth. Before his release from the club earlier this month, veteran defender Nick Garcia gave glowing complements calling the 24 year old one of the best young keepers in the MLS today.
When called on to make big saves the MLS only a few keepers are worth mentioning. After some of Frei’s game saving performances last season his name should be on that list. He has tremendous reflexes and is usually in the right position to make the save, including some massive stops in TFC’s 0-0 draw at Supporters Shield winners L.A Galaxy in May.[picappgallerysingle id=”10035900″]
Another thing that surprises you is his growing leadership abilities in the dressing room. Toward the middle of the 2010 season Stefan was becoming more vocal both to the media and in the locker room. It takes a special type of player to take a leadership role in only your second full season. He began to demand more accountability from his teammates while the club had hit a patch of bad form. His strong performances for the club have helped to make him a respected voice inside the dressing room and the undisputed keeper of choice at BMO.[picappgallerysingle id=”10049249″]
Recently Stefan was selected to represent the MLS generation Adidas team on a tour of Spain in which he and the team shined, especially in the game he started against Rayo Vallecano in which he kept a clean sheet. Naturally due his strong performances both in the league and on tour, there have been rumors that European clubs are keeping an eye on the Swiss born stopper. There is also word that the Swiss national side is scouting Stefan with an eye for a possible future call up.
If there is one weakness in his game it is ball distribution, he is still learning how to properly start the attack from the back without turning the ball over. It’s the one skill that is currently keeping him from moving to the next level. However he does have age on his side as goalkeepers tend to play much longer than their outfield teammates.
The future is defiantly bright for TFC’s shot stopper.