New Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei met with the local media for the first time today by conference call. Here’s what he had to say:
On what he knows about his new city and team: About the city of Seattle not so much, but Seattle Sounders it goes all the way back to Sounders first season in 2009, which was the first draft when the Sounders had the first pick. Even then during the combine Sigi had a good chat with me and he told me about the ambitions and goals they had with Seattle and maybe where I could fit in with that. But I knew early on they had big things in mind for Seattle and obviously with the fans there and with them in my opinion being quite successful making it to the playoffs and obviously doing well in the U.S. Open Cup as well. It shows that they’re a big organization and backed by awesome fans. I as ecstatic once I had the opportunity to join the team.
On playing behind a better defense: If you have a good team around you it’s going to make any player look better. It’s pretty tough when as a goalkeeper you face a lot of shots or you have a constantly revolving carrousel of players in front of you that you have to deal with. It’s hard to gel and it’s hard to play well. Obviously if you go to a team of the caliber that Seattle has, I’m hoping as an individual that’s going to make me look better, but also that I can help the team with my skills and make everybody else on the team look better, and hopefully with the team winning more games.
On looking at this as a fresh start: Definitely. The last two years have been frustrating for me on the pitch. Obviously in 2012 I had a serious injury, which I put that quickly behind me, and I worked my butt off to get back in the best shape of my life, which I did. But then in 2013, to break that nose in the first 45 minutes of being back on the pitch and losing my starting spot that way, that was pretty tough because I felt like I couldn’t really reap the rewards of all that hard work I had put in to get back from my injury. So it was a learning experience for me mentally for me on the inside. But again, like I said, I took it as a positive learning experience – or tried to – and I knew that after being there for five years and going through so many changes with coaching and everything, that with my contract running out I knew a change of scenery was probably best for me. It was just a question of where I would end up. I wanted to get to a team where I was wanted and needed, and a team where I could progress and get better as an individual, and Seattle totally fits that bill. I couldn’t have found a better team.
On if he’s 100 percent healthy: Of absolutely. Besides the nose I was healthy at the start of last season. Then the nose … a couple of weeks I had to give that to heal, but I’ve been healthy all season.
On his previous injuries: I didn’t do anything to my knee. I broke my fibula in my left leg and tore and ankle ligment, so I needed a surgery on my ankle. With that being said, it was a lengthy process in the beginning of just letting it heal, not putting any weight on it or anything. So I had no idea, I was hoping everything was going well, trying to do treatment on it as much as possible and then once you were able to put some weight on it and start strengthening it and getting some range of motion back. You do see that you have a long way to go back. You have to work hard on it every day. You have to work hard for every degree that you get back on that range of motion. But like I said, I didn’t want to dwell on the fact that I was going through a difficult injury. I wanted to do whatever I could to get back at the strongest and the healthiest I’ve ever been, which I think I did. I packed on a lot of muscle during that time – leaned out actually. And as far as my ankle and my leg, I think it’s stronger than my right side now, which is funny. But it was a difficult time, but I think I’ve come back stronger from it.
On his role with Sounders: They told me what the dynamics of the team will be, and that they would love to have me on the team. It’s a given that any team you join there’s no certainty who’s going to be the starter. I am well aware of what the situation is in terms of goalkeeping with the team, and I think they believe in my ability, so I’m going to come in working hard in the preseason. I’ve been working hard in the off-season right now to earn that starting spot. But I also know there are goalkeepers there of high quality – like you mentioned Marcus – and I hope that we’re going to have a good competition going and I can learn a lot from him.
On playing at CenturyLink Field: It’s easier to play when you know that 40,000 (fans) are not trying to kill you out there, right? They’re trying to back you. I’m very excited to put on the uniform and have all these fans behind me. In my first couple of years at BMO Field, by that time BMO Field was called “The Fortress” still, and they had some of the best fans, and it helped us back then. But obviously since then they’ve struggled a little bit with attendance as a result. The Sounders have always been awesome with attendance, and the support they get from the fans. The couple of times I have played it’s crazy. It gets so loud it’s tough to communicate with you defenders. It will be really good to know that that support is actually on your side this time around.
On becoming a teammate of former rival Chad Marshall: He’s tough to play against. He’s a threat offensively. That’s one thing when you’re facing him as a goalkeeper. He’s really good defensively, obviously. He has all these accolades, and he’s been in the league for many years, so he’s very, very experienced. It will be good to have him on our side. I hope he can put that little feud we had with Columbus and Toronto behind him and behind me, and we can make a good partnership with the Seattle Sounders.