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Brad Friedel on the USMNT, the record-breaking Revs, the potential of biennial World Cups and more…

Brad Friedel

INTERVIEW – Brad Friedel spoke to Last Word on Soccer in association with sports betting site Betway US and had this to say on the Revs, the USMNT and more.

Friedel may have previously been the New England Revolution manager but he is much better known for his time on the field. He made over eighty appearances for the USMNT as well as running out for the likes of Blackburn, Aston Villa and Tottenham. Friedel holds the record for the most consecutive games in the Premier League, he is one of very few goalkeepers to have scored, but our conversation was more focused on football as it is now…

Brad Friedel on the USMNT, the record-breaking Revs, the potential of biennial World Cups and more…

The best place to start was in Foxborough with the newly crowned Supporters’ Shield champions. They did so with a record-breaking points tally, something which Brad spoke highly of:

“They have been really fun to watch, you never know what’s going to happen in the playoffs, it’s flip-of-a-coin stuff sometimes but they’ve been by far and away the best team in the league this year.”

Carles Gil is seen by many as a shoe-in for MLS MVP and Friedel is certainly in that camp, he said that “if [Gil] is not the MVP then there is something political going on behind the scenes with contracts and what not,” Friedel told Last Word. The former Revs manager was very brazen in his description of Gil’s prowess, stating that “there’s not been even one person in the league that has been remotely close to his consistency and quality this year.”

It would be easy enough to focus on the little Spaniard but Friedel was quick to stress that on top of his brilliance, there is a great team unit. “He controls the whole game and then you add the scoring touches of Bou and Buksa plus the emergence of Tajon Buchanan. Brandon Bye has probably been the best right back in the league, DeJuan Jones has been outstanding at left back.” There are a number of key players who have had great seasons all over the pitch and “where they might have a touch of a weakness in the center of defense, then they’ve had Matt Turner who has been the best goalkeeper in the league.” The Revs setting the points record automatically puts them in the conversation for the greatest side of all time for many people, Brad Friedel included, however “in the fans views and the views over here they probably need to win it [MLS Cup] but in my eyes, they’ve already won it [Supporters’ Shield] and they could go down as one of the best teams in history.”

Bruce Arena himself has often talked down the hype around the Shield, pointing towards the importance of MLS Cup and the playoffs. This is something that Friedel confirmed, indicating a difference in culture either side of the pond: “We’re raised over here on just getting through a regular season and then concentrating on the playoffs whereas over in Europe, you’re raised on who can endure the long season and become champions.”

Moving onto the national team and ahead of the huge game against Mexico, Brad spoke very highly of Gregg Berhalter’s tenure to date. “He’s gotten a lot of criticism and when you’re a young manager and you are taking over a national team for the first time it’s not easy.”

Not only is he a young manager but he has a very young squad at his disposal, whether it be MLS talent or those in Europe too. “Sometimes the young players will make some mistakes and again I think he’s dealing with that really well. They’re still getting results when he needs them, they’re in second place in the table whilst also exposing as many young players to the elements of what CONCACAF actually is.” On the topic of CONCACAF and Friedel was ardent in his coverage of the region: “It’s different. It’s not easy to qualify and it’s not easy to play in CONCACAF which many people around the world probably think it is, but it just isn’t.”

In terms of the game itself and the fact that these are the two dominant sides in CONCACAF was emphasized. “It’s in the U.S. so I think we’re favorites” – the game will take place at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio tomorrow night and the ramifications will be huge in terms of World Cup qualification. It took late penalty drama featuring Ethan Horvath and Christian Pulisic coming up trumps for the US when the two met in the Nations League final, this is a theme that Friedel expects to repeat itself: “I don’t see it being a large goal-margin victory by either side, I think it’ll be tight.”

There is a bone of contention regarding Christian Pulisic and his future. The Chelsea forward has been struggling with injuries but Brad was particularly assertive in his call for patience. I posed the question of whether he may soon have to move elsewhere, to which the USMNT legend replied, “I think there is more time that’s needed to make sure Christian has a long run of fitness before we can jump to any kind of a conclusion like that.’ Then going on to say ‘so no, I don’t think there are any alarm bells that he has got to move on at this stage.”

From one American in England to another as the inevitability of Josh Sargent and Norwich City facing relegation grows day-by-day. There is guaranteed to be mixed success for American youngsters going to various leagues in Europe, whether it be Sargent in the Premier League or Brenden Aaronson in Salzburg, Austria for example. “It all depends on the player and the situation. Not every player is suited to the Premier League.”

Friedel made it clear that “you watch it [the Premier League] on TV and you have no idea just how physical it was, everyday, even in training.” On the two players listed above: “With someone like Josh, he’s quite strong but he’s going to have to get used to the pace of it and that’ll be the learning experience he’s going through right now. If Aaronson was in the PL he’d be doing the same, he’d be getting kicked all over the place and he would have to learn.”

There is a lot to be said for football week-in-week-out but focusing on Brad Friedel himself. The former player, the icon, the coach, the pundit and so on. He previously managed New England and has also appeared on outlets such as Sky Sports discussing the beautiful game. When asked about the prospect of a return to the touchlines, he said: “I was scarred to be honest with you, I’ll be open with you. From the management upwards. I loved every day with the players, you know the training and the games and all that but if I were ever to get involved with that again, I would have to ask different questions about what was going to be given to me or not.” He spoke very highly of the Krafts and everyone involved with the Revolution organization but it is clear that something put him off from an imminent return.

But what is he up to at the moment? “I’ve opened up the U.S. office for Promo ESport, we’re probably the fifth or sixth largest globally now and I’ve expanded, my market mostly focusses on MLS and then obviously some collaborations with my contacts in Europe. So right now that’s what I’m fully focused on.”

Finally then, going back round full circle to the Revs and Friedel was pretty confident in this team’s ability to go all the way to MLS Cup. “They’ll be the better team, even if they make it to the final, they’ll be the better team in each of their games. But you just don’t know whose going to come out on top in cup games.”

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