Brad Friedel spoke candidly about his past and future–including why he doesn’t regret retiring from the national team– in an exclusive interview only with FOX Soccer.
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Friedel invited FOX Soccer into his home for a rare and intimate sit-down, and you can watch the entire 30-minute interview here (part one, above).
In the interview, Friedel talks about what he learned in Turkey, Major League Soccer and at Liverpool, how promising his Tottenham side truly is, and hits back strongly at the manufactured “controversy” over his comments on Landon Donovan.
Friedel, now 40, has passed Premier League greats David Seaman and Edwin van der Sar in terms of longevity. He is widely considered one of the best `keepers in the league and one of the greatest Americans ever to play the game. It’s a long way from UCLA and the days when he was struggling to get a work permit, and was toiling in Turkey with Galatasaray.
“Turkey was probably my favorite year and a half living outside the US” said Friedel. “It was a completely different experience, and really eye-opening. Galatasaray is an enormous club and unless you go, you probably won’t know what I’m talking about. The fans are absolutely fanatical.
“We won a game at Fenerbahce and our manager, Graeme Souness, staked this massive Galatasaray flag at the center of the ground and they wouldn’t let us out of the changing room for three hours. They knocked out all the windows on our bus, and that was when they tried to turn it over!”
The ups and downs didn’t end there. Friedel had a tough stint at Liverpool that he credits with teaching him how to succeed at the top. “When you get put into adverse situations, you learn a lot about yourself,” said Friedel. “When I went to Liverpool, I had all these high hopes, and it just didn’t happen.”
Friedel also took pains to correct a misperception among some fans that he is somehow anti-Major League Soccer. Nothing could be further than the truth.
“Yes, it was always my aspiration to play in the Premier League, but I would never ever demean the MLS. When I was growing up, there was no pro league, there was nothing for us as young players to grab on to. When the MLS formed, it was fantastic. For it to be still going today and have the product on the field it does – it is much, much better than it was when it started – it is a testament to the people who are running it. My time there was another great learning experience.
“For the US to keep growing, the MLS has to be there, it has to be strong. If it wasn’t there, I would fear for U.S. soccer.”
Friedel also said that while he misses the national team, he doesn’t miss the travel. He had to make a tough choice.
“I miss going in and seeing all the guys,” said Friedel of the national team. “We had such a good team spirit. When World Cups come around and you see them walk on the field, you miss that but I must admit I don’t miss the 12-hour flights. As you get older, that becomes more difficult. I take my hat off to Timmy [Howard].”
Friedel also hit back at an American journalist by name, saying that his reported remarks about Landon Donovan had been taken out of context.
“I was asked to do a radio interview about Clint Dempsey and his achievement [of setting a new record], and I basically said that in America heroes have to be created, and it’s best if they are created on home soil. And the terminology I used, maybe it was the wrong choice of words, but I used ‘easy road.’
“But I was not referring to Landon Donovan’s career path – I don’t care where Landon Donovan plays his football, that’s up to Landon Donovan. I was talking about the off-field notoriety… and basically saying what I said as a tribute to Clint. Clint is one of the feared players that we have to go up against. Whenever we go up against Fulham, his name is right there. The interview was about Dempsey. I was not disparaging Donovan. I don’t have one problem, and I was really surprised at how sensitively the [American] media took it.
“Brian Straus said I was ‘ignorant’ and ‘jealous’ of Landon. A, I’m not jealous of Landon, and as far as being ignorant, what am I ignorant of? I believe possibly, [Strauss] should listen to the entire interview."
"When I got calls about it, I couldn’t even remember making ‘comments about Landon.’”
Friedel feels his current team, third-place Tottenham Hotspur, can go a long way – maybe even taking him into the Champions League for the first time in his career.
“This is the best squad I’ve ever played with, probably since the first Liverpool squad,” said Friedel of his Tottenham team. “The pace in this team is incredible. Quick thinkers, sheer physical raw pace, and it is a joy to play with them. The other thing we have is a strong squad, guys that can come in at every position, including goalkeeper. You have to take your hat off to the chairman and to (Spurs’ manager) Harry (Redknapp). “Harry is a pleasure to be around. The way he wants to play the soccer is all about going forward and being energetic and taking players on. He rarely makes a defensive move. Nine times out of ten, he will play the offensive option. “I get a lot of comments from friends that say we’re the most exciting team to watch!”