TFC trades rights to Frei, re-signs Bendik

TFC goalkeeper Stefan Frei. (CP)

TORONTO – After a long and protracted wait, Stefan Frei’s days as a member of Toronto FC officially came to an end on Tuesday.

The Reds traded the rights to the Swiss goalkeeper to the Seattle Sounders in exchange for a conditional first-round pick in the 2015 Major League Soccer SuperDraft. In a related move, TFC inked Joe Bendik, who replaced Frei as the club’s starting goalkeeper this past year, to a new multi-year deal. Terms of the contract were not released.

Frei, 27, was out of contract at the end of the season but TFC still retained his rights until the completion of stage one of the MLS re-entry draft on Thursday. Seattle still needs to come to terms on a new deal with Frei, but the Sounders wouldn’t have traded for him if they didn’t think they could lock him up.

“Parting with a player of Stefan’s calibre and character is always difficult, but as we move forward with our re-shaping of the club, it is important that we have increased flexibility to make additional moves. This trade provides us with that flexibility,” TFC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a news release.

“Stefan is a great player and an even better person who will always hold a special place in the club’s history. We wish him all the best as he moves on to the next stage of his career.”

Frei just completed his fifth season in MLS, all with Toronto FC, and was the club’s longest serving player. He was originally selected in the first round (13th overall) in the 2009 draft. He quickly became the club’s No. 1 goalkeeper but lost his job to Bendik back in February after breaking his nose in a pre-season game.

As Bendik solidified his role as the starter, Frei sat on the bench for the majority of the campaign, only starting in one league game. TFC then traded for Chris Konopka in September, tipping its hand that it expected him to serve as backup to Joe Bendik next year, leaving Frei as the odd man out.

At TFC’s year-end media day event in October, the Swiss stopper admitted he felt let down by how the club handled his situation, but that he also understood that it’s just the business of the sport.

“It’s disappointing,” Frei admitted. “I didn’t want it to end like this.”

Frei leaves Toronto as the team’s leader in games played (in all competitions) with 99 appearances. He posted a record of 30-38-29, recorded 28 shutouts, and helped the team win four consecutive Canadian club championships (2009-2012).

Bendik, 24, made 33 appearances for the Reds this past season, finishing with a 6-16-11 record and four clean sheets. He joined Toronto via trade with the Portland Timbers (where he only played five times) last December and enjoyed a bit of a breakout campaign with TFC, ranking sixth in the league with 2,970 minutes played in goal and 33 starts, both new single season team-highs.

Bendik signed with the Timbers in 2012 after spending two seasons with Norwegian club Sogndal.

“Joe had an opportunity to step-in and prove himself this season and he did so in a big way. He’s still a relatively young keeper who showed he has the ability and mentality to handle a full season of MLS play. We are excited to watch him continue to develop his skills and be a leader on our re-shaped roster next season,” Bezbatchenko said.

“We are confident that we have addressed our goalkeeper situation for the upcoming season, while adding increased roster and cap flexibility in the process.”