Watch Stefan Frei’s spectacular saves to win Seattle the MLS Cup
The Seattle Sounders are now MLS Cup champions – but to say that Toronto FC dominated a one-sided affair is putting it lightly, at least in terms of the attack. Toronto out-shot Seattle by 19 to 3 and the Sounders never even got a shot on target. Seattle is the first team to play in an MLS Cup without forcing the other side to make a save.
It was up to goalkeeper Stefan Frei to keep the Sounders in the match and, well, he sure did that. He made seven saves over the scoreless stalemate, and then made a crucial save during the game-deciding penalty kick shootout to deny Michael Bradley and keep Seattle hanging on.
His most spectacular moment came in extra time, however, as a Jozy Altidore header caught Frei going the opposite direction. It was perhaps the best save of MLS all year:
Part of what makes that save so incredible is that the ball is actually a bit behind Frei and he needs to reach back to keep the ball out of the net:
For Frei, his MVP-winning performance caps off an impressive playoff run for the Sounders. The Sounders looked perilously closed to being knocked out in the first round of playoffs vs. Sporting Kansas City, but Frei again was called up to have a monster game – which he did, recording seven saves then too. The Sounders eked out a 1-0 win in that match and then continued their playoffs, ultimately out-scoring their opponents in the postseason by 8-2.
Taking a broader view, it was an up-and-down year for Frei, just as it was for his teammates. The Sounders were decidedly terrible for much of the early part of the year – so bad that coach Sigi Schmid was fired after 20 weeks with the team in the basement in the Western Conference. Frei had his moments, where he was a bright spots in otherwise dismal performances.
But as the Sounders grew in confidence, so did Frei. They eventually completed the largest comeback in MLS history to even make it into the playoffs. Now that they've won the MLS Cup, it's an extra exclamation point on a stunning season for the Sounders.
Frei's block on Bradley's penalty kick kept things level once Clint Irwin made a similar-looking save in the shootout.
“This is what you play for,” Frei said after the match. “You want to make history and we did it tonight.”
They sure did, and so did Frei.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 11, 2016
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) December 11, 2016
Frei makes the first save in the shootout pic.twitter.com/4uBSgeSqxm
— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) December 11, 2016