Goalkeeper Stefan Frei will remain with the Sounders FC through 2023.
A new contract was negotiated last winter, but the team typically doesn’t make formal announcements. Instead, Frei announced the news Wednesday during a videoconference call with media.
“I don’t make it a secret that my family and I, we love it here,” said Frei, who’s married and has two dogs. “It was a no-brainer for me to try to stay here, if it was possible, and we were able to come to an agreement that keeps me here for a decent amount (of time).”
Frei, who was born in Switzerland and became a U.S. citizen in 2017, was acquired by the Sounders via trade from Toronto FC in 2013. As he started to take over the Sounders’ all-time records — from most shutouts to wins — he became more entrenched in the Seattle community, particularly the local art scene as a budding artist.
Frei was wearing a black hoodie with the Storm’s new logo and had a view from his new Bainbridge Island home in the background as he spoke with media.
“Gotta rep,” Frei said.
Frei was in goal for Seattle’s two MLS Cup championships, four Western Conference titles and the 2014 Supporters’ Shield. Frei hasn’t missed an MLS start the past two seasons, noting he played through an adductor tear during the Sounders’ postseason run to the league championship match.
The Sounders lost the title to the Columbus Crew SC.
“As I’ve been getting older, I’ve missed less and less games,” said Frei, who’ll turn 35 next week. He missed the 2012 and 2013 MLS seasons in Toronto due to lower-leg and nose injuries.
Although Frei has been durable, Garth Lagerwey, the Sounders’ president of soccer and general manager, added depth at goalkeeper during the offseason. The club returned Stefan Cleveland and signed Spencer Richey, a former University of Washington keeper.
The league’s delayed start due to collective-bargaining-agreement negotiations with players and an already-filled international tournament schedule compressed the schedule this season. The Sounders may rotate keepers due to multiple stretches in which the club will play three games in an eight-day span.
“Our coaching staff knows what’s best for the squad,” Frei said. “With different competitions and a very congested schedule, maybe there will be a time here and there to give someone else an opportunity. I trust them (coaches), but I’m going to train like I’m going to play every single game, every minute and try to do the best that I can.”
The Sounders open the 2021 campaign Friday against Minnesota United FC at Lumen Field. It’s a rematch of last year’s Western Conference championship match, which the Sounders won 3-2.
Frei said most Sounders players have received at least one dose of their COVID-19 vaccinations.
Chris Cornish, the club’s vice president of sports medicine and lead athletic trainer, coordinated the effort as part of data collecting for the team. The players received the Pfizer vaccine.
“We’ve still got to be very smart; the pandemic is not over,” Frei said. “When we announced that we were going to have fans at our home opener, I saw fans getting extremely excited, and I was supper happy, too. But I also didn’t want to sit here and be too excited, (because) King County barely escaped moving back to Phase 2 (of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Healthy Washington plan to reopen the state).”
The Sounders announced their regional broadcast partners. The club’s home remains Q13 FOX (KCPQ-Channel 13) and JOEtv (KZJO-Channel 22). Amazon Prime Video remains the official video streaming partner, and all home and away MLS matches for the Sounders will be carried on Sports Radio 950 KJR AM or 1090 KJR AM.
El Rey 1360 AM is the Spanish-language radio home for matches, and Univision-Seattle (KUNS-TV) will televise some Sounders games. Information: https://www.soundersfc.com/schedule