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Can Frei Repeat 'The Save'?

The 2017 MLS play-offs are here – and we’re back with an assessment of the MVP of last year’s finals, goalkeeper Stefan Frei. He crushed Toronto’s hopes with that impossible save against Jozy Altidore. Will he be able to pull it off again and help the Sounders win the championship two years in a row??

Unfortunately we haven’t compiled his full season yet – but there’s enough data for a snapshot of performance trends to date. Obviously Frei has had an outstanding season including an incredible play-off run. Bottom line? He’s not the best shot stopper in the league, but he is easily one of the top all-around keepers in the MLS that we have data on.

His distribution percentage is excellent across all categories (remember, Stopper counts a distribution event as successful if the ball is received by the target player and the play is continued) and he is very much a modern goalkeeper, as comfortable with his feet as his hands and providing deep support for his back line. The Sounders tend to play out of the back, largely because of their confidence in Frei.

When it comes to crosses, Frei dominates. His ability to win the ball in the air is outstanding. His timing and positioning is such that he rarely needs to punch the ball out – of 50 crosses recorded over 24 games, 68% were classified as high catches.

The Sounders defence has been so effective that it’s hard to get an accurate read on whether Frei has any left/right or high/low bias – although we can say conclusively that his aggressiveness and excellent positioning make him as hard to beat in 1v1 situations as in the air, with a Sv% of 0.86 in all recorded 1v1 scenarios. Our analysis suggest he is more likely to allow a low ball to his left than anywhere else, a finding supported by both penalty goals and the single free kick goal recorded in our partial season data. He’s so good in the air that beating him with a high shot, left or right, will be tough (as Altidore knows only too well!) It should be noted that Frei gets a higher percentage of shots on his left period, which is likely as much a function of a team defensive weakness than any flaw in his performance but regardless – Toronto, keep it low and to his left!

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