Brad Friedel has little coaching experience but he has been influenced by high-profile mentors during a 20-year playing career. And Friedel is eager to start his coaching career with the Revolution.
“We have lot of work ahead but we do have a lot of good players here, a lot of good pieces to this club,” Friedel said at a Gillette Stadium press conference Monday. “One thing we can guarantee you — because you never want to guarantee too much in sport — is that you will get 100 percent commitment from myself and my staff, as well as the players. And we’re going to, hopefully, get to the obsession that I have with winning. And we’ll work our best to try and get those wins on the board.
“I’m excited. I wouldn’t have taken it if I didn’t think I and my entire staff were ready for it. I wish that preseason started tomorrow, to be honest. The good is we have some time now to prepare the squad on how we want to do it, the bad thing is we have to wait to get on the training ground. I think the best thing about coaching is when you’re on the training ground. All the things off it are all the laborious details that go into it.”
Friedel, named last week to replace Jay Heaps, becomes the Revolution’s seventh coach in their 22-year history. Friedel spent most of his playing career in Europe, setting a Premier League record with 310 consecutive starts in goal. Friedel’s career began under Graeme Souness at Liverpool and concluded under Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham in 2015. He then coached the US U-19 team and has been commentating on Fox Sports.
“Not every team in Europe or England has these enormous budgets,” Friedel said. “Working at Tottenham, I know it’s a big club, but they work under a strict budget. You learn to work under whatever restrictions there may be.
“The last 2½ years I’ve been engulfed in the US system. I understand the salary cap, the TAM arrangements, the DP process. I understand how certain clubs operate under those budgets and certain clubs want to operate over those budgets. That’s irrelevant to us.
“Whatever budget is given to us we’ll work with and I think what’s really important is the mentality of the players. Fans and players are usually the two most important things at every single club and us as a staff, we’re employed to try and make those players better. So, whatever players are in front of us, that’s going to be our focus on getting a team environment, a winning environment and an environment where every player wants to work hard. And that doesn’t really matter what your budgets are.”
The news conference also was attended by assistant coaches Mike Lapper and Marcelo Neveleff, plus Ruben Garcia, who replaces Remi Roy as goalkeeper coach. The Revolution are planning to use Roy in another position and will also add “one or two” scouts, according to general manager Michael Burns.
Friedel was among the few candidates who did not have to initiate the interview process, according to Burns, who was Friedel’s roommate on the US national team in the 1990s.
“Brad was one of my first calls,” Burns said. “Not as a friend. I played with Brad, I followed Brad’s career. I knew he wants to be a coach, and has been a coach. At the end of his career he was playing and coaching. He is not the only ex-national team mate of mine that [was a candidate] for the position. There’s been some criticism out there and I want to address this head-on — he, in my opinion, is the best person for the job, bar none, of anyone that I spoke with for the job. I spoke with two dozen candidates, met with six or eight.
“I feel like it’s a new beginning for us. But Brad, for me, is the right guy for the job on the field, off the field. I know these are just words right now and our actions and results will end up dictating everything, but I feel extremely fortunate to have Brad on board.”
Heaps also had no head coaching experience when he was hired in 2011, but proved to be a fast learner, guiding the Revolution to the 2014 MLS Cup final and 2016 US Open Cup final. But after the Revolution missed the playoffs two successive seasons, Heaps was replaced by interim coach Tom Soehn as the team finished with a 13-15-6 (45 points) record.
“I think there’s a lot of potential in the group,” Friedel said. “I think with most teams in MLS, in general, if you get everyone working together and focused to do what you want to do and you get a good team camaraderie in the changing room, then you can get a lot of results. This is not a team in disarray, that’s for sure. I think there needs to be little tweaks to it and then my staff and I need to go in and try to mold the team and get the confidence back.”
Friedel, whose father played football at Miami (Ohio), grew up playing goalkeeper in Ohio, then turned down college scholarships for basketball and tennis to become UCLA’s goalkeeper, teaming with former Revolution star Joe-Max Moore as the Bruins won the 1990 NCAA title. Friedel started his professional career in Europe, then returned to play in the first MLS season, leading the Columbus Crew to a 1-0 win over the Revolution in the final game of the 1996 regular season, a result that clinched the firing of the Revolution’s first coach, Frank Stapleton. Friedel played several times for the US in Foxborough, including the final soccer match at Foxboro Stadium in 2001 and the first international at Gillette Stadium in 2002.
“I didn’t want to jump straight into a head coaching job the day after I stopped playing,” Friedel said. “A lot of my friends and colleagues have done that, some of the world’s greatest players have done that, and found it really difficult. I did it a little bit different. I had some mentors over in England — Mauricio Pochettino, John McDermott (Tottenham Academy coach), Graeme Souness. And I had a lot of conversations with them about what I was really getting myself into. And I fell in love with it. Soccer’s always been in my blood, it always has been, and 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.
“People probably think because I’m a goalkeeper I’m going to go in and be this really defensive guy. That’s not really the case. I love creative players. Georghe Hagi, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale. One thing they had in common, no matter how gifted they were, how technical, they work hard. You need to get the two, [talent] and hard work, together.”