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RISING STAR: Stefan Frei
by Bryan Alvarez, May 14th, 2009 7AM



[MLS] It's rare that a goalkeeper breaks right into an MLS team out of college, but Stefan Frei, picked 13th overall out of Cal in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, has been outstanding for Toronto FC. Frei has won the starting goalkeeper job and helped his team to a 3-1-2 record. Frei began playing soccer in Switzerland and played high school and college ball in California before finding his way to Toronto. Soccer America's Bryan Alvarez profiles the 23-year-old keeper in the MLS Rising Stars series.
CLUB: Toronto FC
AGE: 23
HOMETOWN: Widnau, Switzerland
YOUTH CLUB: Central Marin Bandits (Bay Area, Calif.)

STARTING OUT: My older brother started playing. I wanted to play hockey but my brother came home raving about soccer. So, I wanted to play, as well.
EARLY SOCCER MEMORY: At a young age, my team went to a tournament in Austria. The keeper got hurt. So, I had a great idea. I volunteered to play keeper because I wanted to jump in the mud. My mom didn't think it was such a good idea because she had to wash my jersey.
FIRST CLEATS: I can't remember. I still have my first keeper jersey though. It was bright neon yellow with pink and purple arrows. I've always worn Adidas cleats and gloves. So, my first pair was probably a cheap pair of Adidas.
OTHER SPORTS: I've only played soccer competitively. But, my brother and my dad were always competitive with each other. My dad used to play Olympic handball. So, no matter what we played, it was always competitive.
FAVORITE TEAMS: Bayern Munich, Arsenal.
FAVORITE PLAYER(S): Oliver Kahn, Peter Schmeichel.
FAVORITE MOVIES: Gladiator, Braveheart, I Love You, Man, Wedding Crashers, Dumb & Dumber.
FAVORITE ACTOR: Nicholas Cage.
LIVING SITUATION: I found a nice little apartment for myself. I have a little space for when friends and family visit.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: It's a very gifted class. A lot are getting playing time. I'm not worried about it, at all. It would be a huge honor. But I'm not worried about that.
MLS EXPERIENCE: So far, it's been a really good experience. I was really lucky to get picked by Toronto. We have 20,000 fans every game. They remind me of European supporters. The infrastructure here is top notch. In the pros, they really take care of you. We have a full-time masseuse. The big difference between now and college is that you only have to worry about soccer, not classes. You get to focus 100 percent on soccer. Your whole purpose is to get better.
COLLEGE: I had four great years at Cal. I had plenty of time to grow. I had good keepers in front of me. Also, the goalkeeper coach, Henry Foulk, helped me tremendously to develop my game. My junior year, I made All-American. The decision I made to stay my final year turned out to be a smart one. I was captain in my last year. I had the opportunity to organize and lead the team. That last year has really helped my confidence now.
MOST INFLUENTIAL COACH: There are lots of coaches that have contributed. It's hard to name one. But I would pick my first coach. He was stuck with me for seven years. His name is Sven Sonderegger. He not a coach that people would recognize but I am thankful because I got my career started because of him.
MEMORABLE COACHING ADVICE (from youth coach): Well, it's not really advice from a coach but more of a personal experience in a game with the U-15 national team. We had a mental coach who would help you get focused and visualize before the game. In this game, I overdid it and ended up psyching myself out. So now, I focus weeks before a game but I don't do anything special before a game.
HOBBIES: I like to play video games. I'm playing Skate 2, Call of Duty and The Lord of the Rings online. I also like to draw. I like graffiti art. I also hang out with friends. I like going out to eat, too.
MUSIC: I like hip-hop but not the mainstream stuff. I like the underground stuff. I got really spoiled being in the Bay Area. They have a great underground scene. My favorites are the Hieroglyphics and Zion I.
READING: I like to read to kill time on a plane. Right now, I'm reading how "How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization" by Franklin Foer.
VACATION: My favorite place that I've been is the Maldives. I've always wanted to go to Jerusalem. I studied ancient civilizations at Berkeley so, that made me what to go to Jerusalem.
FAMOUS PEOPLE YOU'D INVITE TO DINNER: Oliver Kahn and Michael Jordan.

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