The Seattle Times
Dec. 11—Perhaps Sounders FC’s biggest need of the offseason was addressed within 24 hours after it became an issue.
The team traded for goalkeeper Stefan Frei on Tuesday, sending Toronto FC a 2015 conditional first-round draft pick, to fill a void at the position after Seattle declined to pick up the contract option on Michael Gspurning, the team’s primary starter in goal the past two years.
Frei, a 6-foot-3 native of Switzerland, did well as a starter in his first three years in the league but didn’t play for Toronto much of the last two seasons. The 27-year-old was injured for most of 2011 and served as backup this past year to Joe Bendik, who signed a new deal with Toronto on Tuesday.
“Stefan is a goalkeeper we have liked for a number of years,” said coach Sigi Schmid in a news release. “He is a quality professional who brings experience and leadership to the position.”
Frei made $200,000 last season, the final year of his contract, and has agreed to a new deal with the Sounders. Gspurning had made $285,000, one of the highest-paid goalkeepers in the league.
Schmid said at Monday’s business meeting that he felt Gspurning was still the right choice and person to replace Kasey Keller in 2011, but that financial flexibility was a key factor at the position.
“If we can do something in the goalkeeping area that allows us to use some money from there and use it in other areas, that is something that is beneficial for us,” the coach said.
Even with the money saved, many national writers around the country think the Sounders might have found a steal in Frei.
Steve Davis of ProSoccerTalk wrote: “Getting a front-line goalkeeper on the cheap? Yes … that’s a solid hit.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by writers of ESPNFC.com and Goal.com.
Frei is the only goalkeeper locked up by Seattle for the 2014 season. The Sounders declined the contract option on Josh Ford and haven’t formally announced if Marcus Hahnemann will return (Hahnemann had indicated on Twitter last month that he would).
Frei, drafted No. 13 overall in 2009 out of California, set the MLS rookie record with five shutouts that year. He was Toronto’s longest tenured player and played a team-record 99 games in all competitions.
“I am very excited to start a new chapter in my career with @SoundersFC,” Frei said on Twitter.
Gspurning posted a goodbye by way of Twitter: “Leaving @SoundersFC was one of my toughest decisions but necessary in the moment. … I wish this great club all the best for the future.”
— Season ticket renewals for next year are at 92 percent.
— The Sounders will play five games at full capacity in 2014, which will put them in line to set an MLS attendance record for the sixth straight year. Average attendance of 44,038 last season ranked 22nd in the world.
— The team is in discussions to keep Xbox as its jersey sponsor for the long term with an existing partnership set to expire after 2014. The Sounders will also unveil a new third uniform and retire Super Cyan before next season.
— The Sounders will hold a three-day invitational player combine in Las Vegas starting Sunday. Training camp is set to begin Jan. 25.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @joshuamayers