Brad Friedel made a career out of doing the improbable, from countless saves with Blackburn Rovers to the USMNT’s run to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals. His latest task will be right up there with them: helping the New England Revolution win their first MLS Cup.
Friedel was named head coach of the Revolution on Thursday, his first top-flight coaching gig after a 20-year professional playing career that included stints at Liverpool, Aston Villa and Tottenham. Friedel replaces the fired Jay Heaps. The 46-year-old’s previous coaching experience comes in the form of being a Tottenham academy coach and most recently the head coach of the U-19 USMNT.
“Brad has been a leader throughout his illustrious career and is regarded as one of the most successful players in U.S. history with experiences spanning multiple continents, leagues, and levels of competition,” said Jonathan Kraft, Revolution owner Robert Kraft’s son who happens to work for the Revolution. “We believe his playing and coaching experiences along with his commitment to compete at the highest level will allow him to be very successful in our league. His knowledge of the game, passion for winning and experience working with players whose talents range from aspiring young players to the game’s most successful professionals will be great assets for the Revolution."
Friedel was one of the first Americans to really make it big in Europe. Along with fellow goalkeeper Kasey Keller, Friedel helped prove the U.S. could produce top-level talent in a sport most of the country cared little about, albeit only at the least technical position on the pitch. He became a club legend with Blackburn, even scoring a goal in 2004 when he came up for a corner kick late in a match against Charlton Athletic.
Friedel is the Brett Favre of the English Premier League, owning the record for most consecutive appearances at 310. He’ll probably need that stamina to help New England finally get over the MLS Cup hump.
One of the 10 original MLS clubs, New England has never won an MLS Cup. Only FC Dallas and New York Red Bulls can say the same, but they both changed their names over the years. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, New England has been to five MLS Cup finals without winning. The team’s only trophy of note was the 2007 U.S. Open Cup.
The Revolution have missed the playoffs six times in the last eight seasons (hence why Heaps was sacked), so Friedel will have his work cut out for him. But Friedel, who once stopped two penalty kicks in the 2002 World Cup, has made a living out of saving unlikely teams.