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It’s no Frei ride to the top for TFC netminder
April 16, 2009, 6:29 AM
Filed under: Stefan Frei, Toronto FC

Stefan Frei has never been big on reality.

The Toronto FC netminder is better with the things that dreams are made of — like showing up for his first professional training camp and ending up as the starting goaltender.

The Californian, born in Switzerland, has an aversion to today’s television fixation on reality shows. Hates ’em. Waste of time.

So, it’s a bit of irony that he finds himself starring in his own reality show — an unexpected starter ahead of veteran Greg Sutton in three of the first four Reds games.

“Walking out for the season opener in Kansas City and hearing the Canadian national anthem with all our supporters singing gave me goose bumps,” said the 22 year-old Frei, the 13th pick in the SuperDraft.

“Then here at home, with (Dwayne) De Rosario scoring and standing in the middle of an erupting stadium was pretty cool. I’m not going to lie.”

It has been an unexpected experience.

Last year he was playing in front of family and friends with the University of California.

As a member of the Swiss Under 15 team (he moved to the U.S. in the late ’90s).

“The biggest crowd I played in front of might’ve been 5,000 fans,” he said. “This is so different with a stadium full of people because they have such a passion for the game and team. And, the pressure is a bit more, too.”

So far, none of it seems to have bothered him, more than living up to his credentials: MVP at the 2009 MLS Player Combine in Fort Lauderdale. In 2008, he was named to the all-Pac-10 first team. In 21 games, he had a GAA of 0.77. He was on the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch list and a College Soccer News third team all-American.

Still, says assistant coach Nick Dasovic: “I don’t think anyone thought he’d be at the stage he’s at this early.

“He’s starting — that’s a huge thing. The good thing is he’s got a quiet confidence. He knows he’s not there yet, that there are things he needs to work on.

“But as young as he is, he’s a pro — he wants to learn everything.”

The speed of the game is the major difference between the college and pro game.

“You don’t have as much time to make decisions here,” Dansovic said. “It’s like a baseball hitter.

“When they turn pro the ball is the size of a pinball. Then, as they adjust, it becomes as big as a balloon.”

Frei noticed the accelerated pace. Right now he’s seeing balloons.

“The shots come off the feet really quickly,” he said. “I’m happy with the way I’ve adjusted, because I remember when I went from high school to college it took me a good year to adjust and obviously this is another step up on that.”

Meantime, many of his veteran teammates have struggled to find their stride.

Amado Guevara has not found his form. De Rosario has not practised this week because of a hamstring pull and his status for Sunday’s game in Dallas is questionable.

Rohan Ricketts has been so sub-par he has been dropped from the starting lineup.

“I didn’t think I’d play this much this early but I’m not going to complain,” Frei said. “You hope it happens … the dream is to play as soon as possible. The reality is, coming into my first season, I wanted just to improve. I expected it to be a year of learning when I wouldn’t necessarily be in so many games.

“I’m honoured and glad it has gone this well.”

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Frei earns his ‘keep
March 28, 2009, 10:46 AM
Filed under: Stefan Frei, Toronto FC

As debuts go, Toronto FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei made a fairly balanced start to his Major League Soccer career last weekend. Twice he was called on to make saves, and twice more he was called on to pick the ball out of the net following unstoppable drives from Kansas City Wizards midfielder Davy Arnaud.

While facing just four shots on goal might not seem to be the best way to test your mettle in your first professional outing, as far as Toronto’s new No. 1 is concerned, it was four shots too many.

“A game where I don’t have to do anything, that’s the perfect day for me,” the Swiss-born stopper said. “As much as I want to play well, if nobody ever hears my name or has to see me on the field, then that’s fine with me as long as we get the win.”

Few in Toronto had heard his name before January, when it was called out as the first goalkeeper taken in the MLS’s SuperDraft with the 13th overall pick. But with his path to the starting lineup blocked by incumbent Greg Sutton and veteran Brian Edwards, getting the nod for the season opener last Saturday seemed almost as unlikely as TFC scoring three goals on the road to get their season off to a winning start for the first time in franchise history.

However, with Sutton nursing a dislocated finger, and with Frei’s impressive displays throughout the preseason still fresh in the memory, head coach John Carver decided to take the plunge and throw his young charge into the deep end, and has no regrets as to how things turned out.

“Any goalkeeper in the league would’ve conceded the two goals,” Carver said. “[Frei] looked confident enough. Everything he had to do, he did well.”

His level of confidence will go a long way to determining how effective the 22-year-old fares in his rookie campaign. He certainly talks a good game, describing his first experience as Toronto’s last line of defence as “a dream come true.

“I tried to take it just like any other game, not trying to psych myself out, going through the same preparations as any other game.”

Frei has benefited from the experience around him in the squad, especially among his fellow goalkeeping brethren, and deflects a large portion of the credit for his performance their way.

“Before the game, [Sutton] pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re doing good, just do what you do best and let the game come to you, don’t try anything spectacular and you’ll be fine.’ I really appreciate him taking me under his wing.”

But while Kansas City provided a gentle introduction to the MLS, today’s game offers a much sterner test, with Columbus set to roll out the red carpet to fete its MLS Cup-champion Crew.

Carver is under no illusions as to the task at hand, especially with Amado Guevara, who scored two goals in last week’s victory, and midfield stalwart Carl Robinson away on international duty with Honduras and Wales, respectively.

“We have to deal with [the absences] and get on with it,” Carver said. “[Columbus has] got a couple of guys missing as well so we should be evenly matched. The fact that we’re missing two guys from the heart of our midfield is a little bit concerning, but it will give the opportunity to other players to come into the team and make an impact.”

Carver is relishing the challenge of pitting his wits against the league’s best.

“This is when the hard work starts, because when you start winning games everybody wants to beat you,” he said. “It’s their first home game, they’re going to be presented with their championship rings, so it’s a big day for them, but we hopefully can go there and spoil the party.”

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Toshack impressed by ‘keepers
February 27, 2009, 8:28 AM
Filed under: Brian Edwards, Greg Sutton, Mike Toshack, Stefan Frei, Toronto FC

Toronto FC’s new goalkeeper coach Mike Toshack has been impressed by the standard of the three ‘keepers he is working with. The Reds squad currently includes the experienced Greg Sutton, Brian Edwards and SuperDraft pick Stefan Frei.

“It’s been great working with them,” said Toshack. “The level that we’re working at is very high and very competitive. The players are very much aware that there is competition between three quality guys. It is a great situation to have because the competition makes everyone better individually and also makes the team better.”

With the three goalkeepers at different stages of their careers, Toshack believes they all bring different attributes to the squad. “Greg Sutton is such a good athlete and has represented his country over a number of years and has done very well. The accolades for Stefan Frei are justified. He is a good young talent and has all of the physical qualities as well as the mental qualities that are needed to play in front of 20 thousand people each week. In a short period of time he has done very well and is picking up new things very quickly,” explained Toshack. “For Brian Edwards to come out of the NCAA and start the season in goal says a lot about him. I remember being in Houston last year and seeing games and thinking that he was a good young goalkeeper that looks comfortable. We are extremely lucky with the goalkeepers that we have.”

Toshack has previously worked for Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact and returned home to Canada to join Toronto after three years with Houston Dynamo. “It is fantastic here and more than I could have hoped for,” he said. “The coaching staff is made up of very committed people with great personalities so it is very easy to work with them. Everything is in place to achieve success here and you get a real feeling that something good is about to happen.”

Mike Toshack interview on Toronto FC TV

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Greg Sutton: Looking over his shoulder
February 13, 2009, 9:22 PM
Filed under: Brian Edwards, Greg Sutton, Stefan Frei, Toronto FC

Greg Sutton has seen it all in his two years as starting goalkeeper of Toronto FC.

From having to deal with top-quality strikers the calibre of Juan Pablo Angel and Kenny Copper bearing down on him to serving as the last line of defence behind a porous back four, the Canadian goalkeeper has packed a lot in during his stint with Toronto FC.

And now a new experience: two youngsters trying to beat him out for the No. 1 goalkeeper’s job for the 2009 MLS campaign.

Toronto FC currently has three shot-stoppers in pre-season training camp after the club used the No. 13 pick overall in last month’s college draft to select Stefan Frei from the University of California.

Frei will battle it out with Sutton and Brian Edwards, Sutton’s backup last season, for the right to earn the starting goalkeeper’s job for the upcoming season.

Sutton missed most of 2007 because of a concussion suffered while playing for the Canadian national team but rebounded with a solid 2008 campaign that saw him post a 7-10-7 record in 24 games with a 1.46 goals against average and six shutouts.

His stellar play didn’t lead to any kind of job security, though. In fact, the opposite occurred, and now Sutton is looking over his shoulder as Edwards and Frei try to usurp him as Toronto’s top man between the posts.

Increased competition

Sutton, 31, said he takes it all in stride and welcomes the opportunity to have to earn the starting goalkeeper’s job.

“It’s great. Anytime you have competition, it brings out the best in yourself. Every year there’s competition, not just this year. There’s been competition my entire life,” Sutton recently told CBCSports.ca.

“It’s something that’s normal in a professional atmosphere … so bringing in new talent is good for us, and it’ll be a good training camp.”

Toronto coach John Carver said Sutton is not a lock to start in net and that he expects “healthy competition” among the three goalkeepers in pre-season.

“When you come back to camp, everything is up for grabs. … It’s a fresh start for everybody. To be fair to your players as a coach, you have to give everybody an opportunity,” Carver explained.

Sutton echoed his coach’s sentiments saying “everyone starts from ground zero, and you have to win yourself a spot in the lineup. That’s how every pre-season works, and everyone has a chance. That’s the way it should be.”

Toronto selected Edwards, 24, in the second round of the 2008 draft and the New Jersey native was so impressive in training camp that Carver chose him — and not Sutton — to start in net at the beginning of the regular season.

Edwards welcome challenge

Like Sutton, Edwards is looking forward to competing for the starting goalkeeper’s job this season.

“I love competition, and I’m the kind of person that wants to win at anything no matter what is, whether you’re playing pick-up-sticks or playing soccer. It’s going to be great,” Edwards said.

As for Frei, 22, he’s hoping to pick up as much as he can from Sutton and Edwards while training alongside them.

“I’m happy that I’m practising with two goalkeepers that are really good because I’m looking to learn from them. Hopefully I can push them to get better,” Frei stated. “Right now, I’m just trying to learn and get better. It’s up to the coach to decide who plays.”

Frei anticipates that making the transition from college soccer to the pros will be a daunting task.

“The shots off the foot of strikers will come a lot quicker and harder, the pace of the game is faster. So, it will take some time to get adjusted to it, but it’s good because that means a new experience for me and hopefully [a chance to] get better,” Frei admitted.

Although he is in direct competition with Edwards and Frei, Sutton said he feels obliged to mentor the youngsters and give them a chance to benefit from his years of experience.

“You always try to give guidance to young players, and you can’t be a selfish player in that respect,” Sutton said. “I look back to when I started my career, and there were older players who helped me out, so I look to do the same.

“Those two guys [Edwards and Frei] have bright futures ahead of them so if I can help them, I’ll do it. Helping them is going to help me in the end, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

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Dichio: Frei & Vitti look impressive
February 13, 2009, 9:42 AM
Filed under: Danny Dichio, MLS Preseason, Pablo Vitti, Stefan Frei, Toronto FC

From Dichio’s blog

After a hard afternoon yesterday where we practiced only once , we were back to our normal double session today. Yesterday was the dreaded 3 on 3’s in a tight area working at an intense pace and pressuring the person in control of the ball. We do numerous reps of these at selected time periods with rest time in between the 3 minute games. But no matter how hard these 3 on 3’s are, i know that all of the players would much rather do this hard work with the ball and goals than run stupidly for long periods around a track, pitch or forest!!  Back to today where this morning we broke up into 4 teams of 6 and played a mini tournament against eachother. 3 times through and the guys were spent after putting in lots of effort, even on the training ground there is lots of hustling and arguing between the lads as no-one wants to be on the losing team. Also adding to the fire is the dubious refereeing of some of our coaches, there response is that we should be used to it now while playing in the MLS!!!   Our new young goalkeeper Stefan Frei has impressed me alot already, and being on my team today i got an even closer look at him. He was superb today and really makes himself big on 1 on 1 situations, earning the nickname ‘Spider-Man’ already. Another guy that looks the business even though his only been with us a couple of days now is ‘Pablo Vitti’. He does not speak much english , but you can tell he’s a class act. He has great feet and movement and can turn on sixpence sharply. I look forward to seeing him in game action tomorrow against New York. It was also good to see my old mate Marv come and join us today after his exploits with the US national team. They got a great win against Mexico last night, so he was a pretty happy guy today.

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Sutton becomes mentor
February 5, 2009, 6:11 PM
Filed under: Brian Edwards, Greg Sutton, Stefan Frei

Tending net behind an oft-porous Toronto FC defence, Greg Sutton has grown accustomed to having to be on his toes.

So when the veteran Canadian international came into this year’s training camp to compete for a job against a pair of highly touted youngsters, he saw it as just another chance to prove he belongs.

“That’s the way it should be,” Sutton said yesterday at BMO Field. “You always want to try and bring out the most competitive nature in the guys, and bringing new talent into camp is one way of doing that.”

The new talent is provided by Stefan Frei, 22, of the University of California, drafted in the first round, 13th overall, in last month’s Major League Soccer SuperDraft.

Also on hand is Brian Edwards, 24, a second-round draft choice last year who was so impressive in 2008 training camp he started the season’s first game.

In all, Edwards started six games, posting a 2-3-1 record, a 1.33 goals against average and two shutouts.

Sutton, 31, who missed most of 2007 due to a concussion suffered while playing for Canada in the Gold Cup, saw the bulk of the action last season, going 7-10-7 in 24 games with a 1.46 goals against average and six shutouts.

“I wish I could play the three of them,” quipped coach John Carver, whose team allowed 43 goals last year, tied for fifth-worst in the MLS.

Despite those numbers, Carver said Sutton had an “outstanding season” in 2008, stealing wins and points some nights and preventing blowout losses in others.

Sutton’s attitude and work ethic also mean he’s “still getting better,” a decade into his professional career, Carver said.

“He has been around a long time now but he’s not going to give up that position easily, and the other two guys have to realize that,” Carver said. “But for two guys to learn from, there’s probably nobody better in the league.”

Edwards, a New Jersey native, said he has “learned a ton” from Sutton, especially as he got ready for his first MLS start last season.

“Greg could see I was nervous,” Edwards recalled. “And he gave me some advice while we were warming up and was real positive with the whole situation, and that really helped me during the season.”

The Swiss-born Frei is coming into his first professional camp.

Sutton, who has played for Canada 11 times in a career that includes six seasons with the USL’s Montreal Impact and a stint with the Chicago Fire of MLS, said the education goes both ways between the goalkeeping trio.

“If I can pass down anything that can help them I’m willing to do that,” Sutton said. “(But) it’s going to help me with my game, watching some of the things I might see from the younger guys.”

Source: Click Here