SEATTLE – Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei has a lot of specific memories from that day last December in Toronto, from the bone-chilling cold, to the layer of frost on the field, to the save that everyone continues to talk about around Seattle.
“A lot of people have seen that moment and it is one thing that I guess when they see me that pops in their head. I don’t mind,” Frei said. “It’s a nice memory.”
What stands out the most for Frei is the history that he and his teammates made on that night when they beat Toronto on penalty kicks to claim Seattle’s first MLS Cup title. It’s history that will be revisited this week as the Sounders host Toronto on Saturday in a cup final rematch that’s the only regular-season meeting between the sides in 2017.
Toronto is surging of late, including last Saturday’s 2-0 win over Houston and Wednesday’s 2-1 win against Eastern Conference-leading Orlando City behind two goals from Sebastian Giovinco. Seattle had to rally with three late goals for a 3-3 draw with New England last weekend, its fourth draw already this season.
While there will be plenty of attention on the stars Saturday, most of the focus will likely be on Frei and what he accomplished five months ago.
In an otherwise forgettable final, Frei stood out. He made seven saves but none was shown more often or talked about more on social media than his leaping stop of Jozy Altidore’s header in extra time that seemed destined for the upper corner of the goal.
The save got Seattle to penalty kicks where the Sounders eventually won on Roman Torres’ converted penalty. Frei doesn’t mind that his other saves seem forgotten.
“It’s the life of the goalkeeper,” he said. “The other ones are difficult decisions but they’re not the highlight reel kind of save that sticks out.”
Making Frei’s performance even more remarkable were the below-freezing temperatures. Frei said one move that helped significantly was putting a heat pack in the towel he took with him to the field at halftime. The heat pack provided only a slight burst of warmth but every little bit helped.
“You try and not make too big of a deal about it because everybody has to deal with the same thing,” Frei said. “It was pretty crazy conditions, probably the craziest I’ve had to deal with, but everybody on the pitch had to deal with it.”