It's no Frei ride with TFC

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

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 practiced 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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