Those who simply scanned the box scores might assume the Seattle Sounders’ 3-0 win over the New England Revolution on Sunday was dominating.
However, there was a split-second in the 39th minute when New England’s Kelyn Rowe struck a ball that seemed about to bring the visitors equal. But just before the sizzling shot found its way into the lower-left corner, Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei got his right hand to it, just enough to knock it wide.
After the game, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid called it a world-class save. On Thursday, Frei admitted “it was probably one of my better ones.”
The play began just outside the top of the Seattle penalty area, when an attempted clearance by new center back Brad Evans went directly to Rowe. The Federal Way native took three touches toward goal before unleashing a dipping shot from about 30 yards.
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“The breakdown and the way we turned over that ball and then scrambled a little bit, and then I think the way he hit it, too, it knuckled a little bit as well,” Frei said. “I just tried to shuffle over, and I think I got the bare minimum I needed to make that save on that ball.”
Frei went on to say that what seemed to be a split-second of excellence actually was the result of long hours of training.
“It’s really nice to sometimes see all the things you work on — we work on all the time in practice with (goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra) on the technique — and all those things come together,” he said. “And when you see how quickly everything has to happen, it really needs to be second-nature almost for all those things to click — footwork, angles — all those things and technique-wise. It’s more rewarding when you get to watch it in full time and see how you actually got there. I guess that means we’re doing something right.”
The save ended up being the only one Frei made — or had to make — all night. Schmid stressed that fewer save opportunities puts added pressure on the goalie with each shot.
“It’s so much harder as a goalkeeper to play for a good team,” he said. “When you play for a team that’s not so good, if you make eight saves and you take two goals, you look like a superstar. But when you’re playing for a good team and you maybe face only three shots that are dangerous, you’ve got to come up with three saves.”
Frei’s professional background makes him distinctly qualified to weigh in on that. He spent his first five MLS seasons at Toronto FC, where he went a combined 20-34-25. Then he came to Seattle in 2014 and doubled his win total in a single season, going 20-10-4.
“I think it’s easier to play yourself into the game when you’re facing a lot of shots,” he said. “You know you’re going to get your fair share (with a weaker team). You can build your confidence with a couple of easy saves here and there and then you’re flying. With a good team it can be that you’re not making a save until the 92nd minute, but you’ve got to make sure that once that ball comes your way that you’re ready. The focus mentally has to be there.”
The Sounders returned to training Thursday at CenturyLink Field. They will return to Starfire Sports Complex on Friday, concluding work for their home match against the San Jose Earthquakes at 7 p.m. Saturday. … Veteran forward Kenny Cooper missed the Thursday session with what Schmid called an excused absence. … Schmid also said All-Star midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (groin) could join his teammates for parts of training next week.