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Frei At Last

Toronto's longest serving player will be between the pipes for the opposition when they meet the Seattle Sounders on Saturday.

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

If Toronto FC wants to finally achieve success in their eighth season in Major League Soccer they have to both overcome and distance themselves from their past. Learn from it, sure, but replicate it as little as possible.

It is fitting, then, that when TFC kicks off the 2014 MLS season against the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field a piece of their history will be standing between the pipes for the home side.

Stefan Frei left Toronto for Seattle as the longest serving player in team history, with 99 starts. But his 100th in a Major League Soccer uniform, a 1-0 win against Sporting Kansas City, is more than just a number. The game represented the turning of a new leaf in Frei's career.

After all the years he has had to struggle in red and white (or whatever, probably pink, goalie uniform he wore) he now finds new hope in green and blue (or whatever goalie uniform THEY give him to wear). He has only played one MLS game with his new team, but to him the difference is already obvious.

"There's a bit of a different standard," Frei explains. "I think that's the big difference between Toronto and Seattle. In my five years they've never made the playoffs [in Toronto] and in Seattle they've always reached the playoffs."

He cites a winning attitude that he never found present in Toronto, and the fact that the Sounders are never satisfied with what they have accomplished, always wanting more.

As for why Toronto has not achieved a similar level of success? Frei's response was equal parts ground-breaking and unexpected.

"All that turnover, it makes it tough for teams to be successful."

Okay, so maybe not, even if it is the correct answer. Having been the club's longest serving player nobody would have had more firsthand knowledge of the detrimental effects of the constant evolution (Supporters you say? Pretty sure they all left as part of the 2012 turnover).

As for the turnover wheel finally landing on him, he thinks from a soccer point of view it was time for him to move on. However, on a personal level he will miss many aspects of the city he is leaving behind.

"I love the city and love the fans," says Frei. "It was really tough to have to leave all of that behind."

The circumstances of his departure do not escape him, in fact he seems to have come to terms with them. He even explained that in a salary cap league it makes sense.

"Look where I ended up because of it," he said. "I couldn't ask to be in a better place than where I am right now."

It's unfortunate, really, that Frei had to leave before the club made moves that actually may have made them competitive. But he needed a breath of fresh air, and Major League Soccer has few better places for that sort of thing than Seattle.

Stefan Frei will always have a special place inside the hearts of every Toronto FC fan, just not on Saturday.