New England Revolution head coach Brad Friedel and general manager Mike Burns are more than familiar with each other, but it wasn’t just the close connection between the former U.S. Men’s National Team players that brought Friedel to New England.
“Brad was one of my first calls, and he said it – not as a friend,” Burns said at Friedel’s introductory press conference on Monday. “I’ve played with Brad, I followed Brad’s career, I knew he wants to be a coach and has been a coach and towards the end of his career he was playing and coaching, UEFA Pro License, Under-19 National Team, but Brad Friedel is not the only ex-national team mate of mine that I interviewed for the position.
“There’s been some criticism out there that I’ve hired a friend, I want to address this head on,” Burns said. “He, in my opinion, is the best person for the job, bar none and of anyone I’ve spoken with. I spoke with probably close to two dozen candidates.”
Friedel might not seem like the most experienced of candidates, but he’s been working toward this moment since the back end of his playing career in England.
“The last four years of my playing career, I was also coaching at Tottenham’s academy,” Friedel said. “I went through my UEFA B, then my UEFA A license, and then concluded with my UEFA Pro license there, all going up into coaching with the professional players during my last season there.”
The former USMNT goalkeeper also wanted to take his time getting into the coaching game. He retired in 2015 from Tottenham and then took over the U.S. U19 squad in 2016 before taking his first professional gig last week when the Revolution came calling.
“Some of the world’s greatest players have done that and they’ve found it really, really difficult,” Friedel said. “I did it little bit different. I had some mentors over in England. Mauricio Pochettino being one of them, John McDermott being another, and Graham Souness being another.
“I had a lot of conversations with them about what I was really getting myself into and I fell in love with it,” Friedel said. “Soccer is in my blood. It always has been. From that point on, I’ve done everything in my power to try to learn to the point of where I was ready to become a head coach. I took on the head coaching role of the Under-19 National Team partly because I wanted to take a head coaching role and the other part so I could learn the landscape of soccer in the United States.”
As for the complexities of MLS, Friedel isn’t concerned with being at a disadvantage given his time as an analyst for Fox and time in the American system since his retirement as a player.
“That won’t be hard to adjust to at all,” Friedel said. “Not every team over in Europe or England, for that matter, has these enormous budgets. Working at clubs like Blackburn as a player, but then at Tottenham, I know it’s a big club, but they work under a strict budget at Tottenham. You learn to work under whatever restrictions or not there may or may not be.”
“The last two-and-a-half years, I’ve been engulfed in the U.S. system the whole time,” Friedel said. “I understand the salary cap, I understand the TAM arrangements, I understand the DP process, I understand how certain clubs operate under those budgets and certain clubs want to operate over those budgets.”
The new Revolution boss doesn’t have a certain style of play ready to roll this instant, but he is impressed with the current roster and knows the team will be ready to contend from the start of the 2018 season in the always-improving Eastern Conference.
“Actually, not wanting to concede goals has nothing to do with me being a goalkeeper, I can assure you, that has to do with winning games,” Friedel said. “I’m not going to get into tactics today, this is not the time. However, what you will see is a committed team, a committed team that has very good physical capabilities, and a committed team that will hopefully play entertaining soccer as well.
“You’ll be seeing, hopefully, a very good, team-oriented, hardworking team on the field with some flair. I’m not – just because I’m a goalkeeper, doesn’t mean I don’t want to see technically gifted players. My staff knows this and hopefully we’ll be able to put that in front of the fans.”