The Seattle Sounders can thank Stefan Frei for helping snap the team’s four-game mini slump as the team heads into the next challenge of the MLS season: Two games in four days, starting with Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. match against Orlando City at CenturyLink Field.
Frei recorded his fourth shutout of the season — and 70th of his career — on Saturday, helping end a winless streak that contained three ties and a loss. He and the Sounders defense stone-walled a Houston Dynamo team that had scored 17 goals in eight games but came up empty in a 1-0 loss to Seattle.
“Clean sheets are a secondary objectives,” Frei said Saturday. “Points are what matters.”
The four games before the win over Houston yielded just three points with ties against Minnesota United, San Jose and LAFC, the team the Sounders are chasing in the Western Conference standings. A missed shot here, a squandered pass there caused plenty of frustration for the team in that span. Frei made sure to remind his teammates of what was needed against Houston.
“We’re fighting and scrapping,” Frei said. “I said to the squad today we’ve been working our butts off for one point at a time. It’s time to be more greedy and put in that same effort to get three points.”
Mission accomplished, thanks to a goal by Cristian Roldan in the fifth minute and Frei save in the 78th that prevented a tying goal.
In what could be deemed a rare moment of separation from Sounders defender Brad Smith, Houston forward Alberth Elis received a long pass from Darwin Ceren up the far left side of the field and looked to challenge Frei.
As Elis moved towards the ball, Frei lunged forward to dive on the ball just as Elis was milliseconds away from getting his foot on it. It was Frei’s lone save of the match but it was an important one, considering the Sounders struggled to generate much offense.
“My guys had to work hard,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “The guys dug deep there to secure three points. ... That’s gonna be a team that’s going to be right up there in the Western Conference throughout this season. They have some talented players and I’m sure that some of their guys are going to rue some of the misses they had.”
Seattle now has to carry that momentum into a two-game stretch this week. First is Orlando City, the 10th place team in the Eastern Conference that’s dropped two straight games while putting up 12 points in their 3-5-3 start. Then it’s on to Philadelphia to play the Eastern Conference leading Union (7-3-2, 23 points) on Saturday.
“Honestly, it’s one game at a time,” Frei said. “You have to take that, whether it’s a one-game week or a three-game week. Especially knowing we have these two games at home before we go on the road, you can sit here and say, ‘OK let’s get six points at home.’ I think you’ve gotta take it in stages, show every game with the utmost respect.”