Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Protected by Facemask, Frei Can Practise with 'Keepers, but Not Cleared to Play

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Protected by Facemask, Frei Can Practise with 'Keepers, but Not Cleared to Play

Article excerpt

Toronto FC playing it safe with Frei's return

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TORONTO - One fan is keen to buy it as a souvenir, others have suggested he do like hockey goalies and have it custom painted.

Stefan Frei would rather be without his "scary mask" altogether.

But Toronto FC's No. 1 goalkeeper knows the protective plastic facemask he's worn since breaking his nose two weeks ago is a necessary precaution.

"Obviously I would prefer to play without it. It's just a nose as I say," Frei said. "But if I carry this nose injury throughout this whole year that's probably not the best thing."

The 26-year-old Swiss 'keeper faced shots from coaches Wednesday at the team's practice facility north of downtown Toronto. He hasn't been cleared to practise with the team, and won't be in net when Toronto FC opens its Major League Soccer season Saturday in Vancouver.

The team's medical staff is playing it safe with Frei's surgically-repaired nose.

"It's Sod's law isn't it that the first time he gets back he's going to get one in the nose, first shot," said Toronto coach Ryan Nelsen. "We've got to make sure that big snout . . . can handle it."

Frei, a good bet to be Toronto FC's captain this season with the retirement of Torsten Frings, broke his nose in a face-versus-boot collision with Columbus Crew striker Ryan Finley in a pre-season game Feb. 9.

He had surgery in Orlando two days later.

His nose, a zig-zag two weeks ago, was straight Wednesday. That didn't prevent Toronto's new coach from firing a few verbal shots at the 'keeper.

"You've seen him, it's a pretty ugly looking nose, isn't it?" Nelsen said, laughing. "He needed all the help he could get (before breaking it), not something like this."

Frei can't practise with the team yet because it's an uncontrolled environment, and a hard shot to the face could be disastrous. But once he's been cleared to return to the squad, he feels he's be ready to step in net in a game. …

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