It has been a long road back into the Sounders lineup for goalkeeper Stefan Frei after testing positive for COVID-19 early last week when the team was in Nashville.
A really long road. As in about 2,425 miles and 35 hours of driving.
Frei missed two games with the illness but is expected to play Saturday night when the Sounders host Colorado at Lumen Field and try to snap a three-game losing streak.
Seattle hasn’t scored in three straight matches, the first time that has happened since 2018. The Sounders (8-10-2) are in ninth place in the Western Conference and if the season ended today, they would miss the playoffs.
Colorado (6-8-6) might be the right opponent to get things turned around against, with the Rapids winless in nine road games this season, going 0-6-3.
“We’re eager to get back on the field and change our fortunes a little bit,” Frei said after the team’s light practice Friday. “We’ve had a good week of training.”
Frei is happy to be back after testing positive for COVID after the team had flown to Nashville for a game July 13.
“I like to be proactive and look forward to see what’s best, and the options were wait for a double-negative [test] to fly home, but you don’t have a guarantee,” Frei said. “That could be five days, that could be 12 days. For me, I need to get home so I can be assured that when I am negative, I can get back on the field and I can train and get ready for the next game.”
So he rented a car, and drove and drove.
“It took me 35 hours to drive, which I probably didn’t know what that meant at first,” said Frei, who said he had a very bad fever July 13 but felt good enough to start the drive the next day.
Armed with some sightseeing advice from goalkeeper coach Tommy Dutra, Frei did three 12-hour drives. And liked it.
“It was nice, honestly,” he said. “The first day it was grooving to ’80s music — lively and lots of energy — and cut through Missouri all the way to Omaha. Then I think I became an introvert and enjoyed nature. It was good. … It was good for the soul.”
Frei said he got a little nervous because the vehicle “showed me an oil maintenance warning every day, but I pushed through.”
Frei got a negative test result last Saturday and has been training all week.
“I feel awesome,” Frei said. “At first, it was strange to put on the mitts again, and get pelted [with shots[ by Tommy [Dutra]. It was crazy, and kind of like the preseason when you face your first shots.”
Frei said he could feel the impact on his fingers “because driving, my fingers weren’t really getting a pounding.”
“Tommy made sure I would be ready for the weekend and let me have it this week,” Frei said.
Coach Brian Schmetzer praised backup goaltender Stefan Cleveland for his play in 1-0 losses to Nashville and Chicago, but he is happy Frei is back.
Schmetzer said his team was angry this week after suffering three straight losses. He said he remains confident the team will turn things around.
“I am very confident with this team, very confident in this group,” Schmetzer said. “We didn’t become [Champions League] champions and then fall off the face of the earth. It might seem that way for fans, and myself included. But we’re a good team and it will start to happen again. I keep telling them, ‘If you play to your potential and you play up to your level, you will win more games than you lose.’ “
Forward Raul Ruidiaz (hamstring strain) was jogging around the practice field Friday, but he won’t play Saturday, the coach said.
Schmetzer said he will “tweak lineups until we get it right.” When asked who would start in the No. 6 position, the coach said, “The game plan for that position you guys will find out an hour before kickoff.”
“What I want is to try to find some consistency in that position,” Schmetzer said. “… It has been rotating and that’s part of the reason we haven’t had any consistency in the results, and we are going to try and solve that.”