With Joe Bendik getting a second yellow card for dissent after the end of last week's game ruling out of the upcoming Chicago game, Ryan Nelsen confirmed that Stefan Frei would be in goal instead. It's great that Frei will get one last start before his presumed exit once the season is over, but it's a shame that that's an away game which won't give the BMO Field crowd the chance to cheer him on one last time as a thankyou for his service.
Playing Frei in the last game against Montreal is something that many people want to see happen. Whether he plays or not of course, supporters can say thanks in the way of chants or tifos but it would mean a lot more if that happened while he was actually playing, if he can soak up the applause while walking to his goal, rather than from the bench or as part of the season ending lap of honour. I'm personally not as sentimental as many about Frei, but I'd have had no problem with TFC once again playing to the fans rather than ruthlessly doing what they think is best to win each individual game, hell, TFC have had all sorts of half arsed promos, why not turn one last meaningless game into 'Frei day'.
After all, he does deserve something. He's the club's longest serving player, the only one going as far back as 2009, and holds the club record for appearances, with 98 in all appearances, playing both of these games would take him to 100, which would be a nice round number (more on that later). Though he's only had one very good season, in 2010, he's always been popular with fans, and according to a somewhat bittter Milos Kocic, "an icon at the club". After a couple of injury ruined seasons, losing his job to Joe Bendik can't have been easy but he's handled it without the drama and the public bitching that have come easily to many others (though this article suggests there's probably a lot of private bitching going on). If TFC sticks to the previous standards (let's hope they don't and do actually demand something more) all of the above (popularity, being the first to 'acheive' something that was always going to happen eventually, being a good team player), is more than enough qualifications to get on the wall of honour.
So yeah, if there was nothing on the line, then let him play, why the hell not. Except that all of a sudden, there probably is going to be something on the line. After losing at home to new England Revolution on Saturday, Montreal are very much in danger of losing a playoff spot as they are now only 1 point ahead of 7th place, though with a game in hand). There's been talk of 'playing spoiler' for months now, but there's a genuine chance to do that now, Operation Screw Montreal is fully operational. Yes it's petty and would by no means convert the season into anything other than the absolute shitshow it has been, but getting a result that knocks Montreal out of the playoffs would be a fun way to end the season, and TFC fans have been fun starved for so long we'll take what we can get.
So for me, TFC should be trying their hardest to win this last game, playing their first team. If Ryan Nelsen thinks Joe Bendik is his number one goalie, and he clearly does, then it's Bendik who should be starting. Ideally, if TFC are winning comfortably, then Frei can be brought on late, a victory cigar sub. Let Bendik get the applause for a good season, and let Frei get the recognition for a good career. But if TFC don't have a big lead, which let's face it is unlikely, then sentiment be damned, keep Bendik in, if Frei has to stay at 99 appearances, then so be it.
As for that whole 'first player to reach 100 appearances in all competitions' thing, here's the top ten as per wikipedia.
|2=||Julian de Guzman||Canada||2009–12||93||3|
|7||Chad Barrett||United States||2008–10||78||21|
|8=||Marvell Wynne||United States||2007–10||75||2|
|8=||Dwayne De Rosario||Canada||2009–2011||75||32|
If there's anything that so perfectly demonstrates the instability and revolving door that has been TFC's trademark, it's that list. In all competitions, TFC have played 268 competitive games so far, that no-one has made it to 100 is a bit of a joke really, and with Frei and Eckersley presumably departing at the end of the season, Ashtone Morgan will be the only player on that list currently with the team.
Want even more of a laugh, look at the list of top goalscorers. 7 has got Robert Earnshaw into the top ten. 7!
|1||Dwayne De Rosario||Canada||2009–11||32||75|
|2||Chad Barrett||United States||2008–10||21||78|
|9=||Luis Silva||United States||2012–2013||7||55|