Even though Clint Dempsey was front and center for the first day of Seattle Sounders’ training camp Tuesday at Starfire Sports, he remains without a timetable for return to game action.
And he has another star teammate now in a similar boat — goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
General manager Garth Lagerwey announced Tuesday that the reigning MLS Cup MVP will miss “multiple weeks” with a right ankle injury, suffered a couple weeks ago at camp with the U.S. national men’s team.
Initially it was reported that Frei had to withdraw from the national team camp Jan. 14 with a sprained ankle. It’s been revealed now that he suffered ligament damage.
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“He’s going to be out a while,” Lagerway said. “He’s going to be with us for our preseason trips. He is at a point where he can be on the field and not just in the training, but he’s a ways away — multiple weeks away.”
Lagerwey and coach Brian Schnetzer did not appear concerned Frei’s injury would have long-term ramifications, but added they would be cautious in bringing the fourth-year Seattle goalkeeper back. Backup Tyler Miller is expected predominately fill in for Frei, although the club did re-sign Bryan Meredith.
That does bring in the question of Frei missing the team’s regular-season opener at Houston on March 4.
“Do I think Stef can come back for the season opener? Yeah, I think he can. The question is — should he?” Lagerwey said. “We just ... played an 11-month season, and to some degree, there is no reason to rush him back. We are going to be cautious with these types of things.”
The same goes with Dempsey. He has been cleared by doctors to return to daily training with the club, and that is it.
Beyond that, it is a wait-and-see situation, Lagerwey said.
“I don’t want to set any expectations because we either will hit them or we won’t,” Lagerwey said. “We are not prepared to put any more structure on it than that.”
Just to have Dempsey back participating in four-corners scrimmaging, flashing some of those high-flying, suited-for-the-playground moves, was a welcome sight.
“It was only one day,” Schmetzer said, “but he looked pretty good.”
Lagerway said a big hurdle to clear will be trying to work Dempsey into a few preseason matches.
“Once we see how he does in those, we’ll figure out the regular season from there,” Lagerwey said.
The break for Frei might be a blessing for the Swiss native, who admitted he was worn down going into the last leg of the MLS playoffs.
Of course, Frei will be forever be remembered for the acrobatic save he made on Toronto’s Jozy Altidore’s shot in the 108th minute of a scoreless match in the MLS Cup, going high and near-horizontal is swatting it away with his left hand.
The image of that save has circulated around social media. Asked if he had a copy of it on a poster, a framed picture or even on a life-size “Fathead” wall decal, Frei laughed and said he did not.
“But we got a trophy from it,” he said.
Frei admitted he does get recognized more often in public.
“I’ve had the occasional awkward kiss on the hand where I have my star,” Frei said. “But it is nothing too crazy.”
He was one of four Sounders players to get invited to national team camp, even if it last only three days.
Frei said he suffered the injury when the team was training on artificial turf during a rainstorm in Los Angeles. He went to make a save to his right, and his foot got caught on the turf.
“It was a typical turf injury — my leg got caught, and it wasn’t going anywhere,” Frei said. “So I folded over the ankle and injured a ligament a little bit.”
Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans and Jordan Morris are still away with the national team, and missed the opening of training camp Tuesday. ... Midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro, whom the team acquired in July as one of its designated players, was excused to stay away from the club until Friday. Since Lodeiro had played 18 consecutive months of competitive soccer, Lagerwey said he asked for an extended break. ... Seattle traded the rights for former defender Tyrone Mears to Atlanta on Tuesday in exchange for $50,000 of general allocation money. Mears started at right back last season. ... For the first time in Sounders history, academy players have been invited to preseason camp. ... Schmetzer joked that newcomer Will Bruin, who was with Houston last season, and Alonso have cleared the air from their incident in October during the regular season. Alonso scratched at Bruin’s eye, earning a red-card ejection. ... New assistant coach Gonzalo Pineda will take over former assistant Ante Razov’s old role of working with midfielders and strikers. Djimi Traore will continue to assist with the defending group, Schmetzer said. ... The Sounders will hold three more morning training sessions (Wednesday-Friday) before heading off to Tucson, Arizona, on Sunday.