Crew brass deny rumors of Friedel's return

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Brian Bliss has no doubts that Aston Villa and former US goalkeeper Brad Friedel wants to finish his career in his native Ohio. But the Columbus technical director said Monday he has had no conversations with Freidel about joining the Crew as a player-coach in 2011, despite a report in England’s Daily Mirror over the weekend.

“I haven’t had any discussions,” Bliss said. “I’m not aware of that [report]. Usually in the transfer window periods he’s called asking, ‘Is there any chance I can get in?’” Bliss added. “I think he wants to come home. I don’t know about now, but I can tell you Brad has called, to my knowledge, every July and January or every December the last two years.”

Friedel, who hails from the western Cleveland suburb of Bay Village, played 45 regular season and playoff games for the Crew in 1996 and ‘97.

He earned Goalkeeper of the Year and Best XI honors in 1997 with a 1.21 GAA and eight shutouts, but Liverpool swooped in and bought his contract that December. Friedel has played in England ever since, logging more than 400 combined caps with Liverpool, Blackburn and Aston Villa.

[inline_node:304179]Bliss, a Crew teammate of Friedel along with current Crew coach Robert Warzycha, said he sees Friedel every summer when he visits Columbus in the offseason. But any talk of a contract would have been left to club president-general manager Mark McCullers, who said on Monday that reports linking the 'keeper to the Crew are "unfounded."

“The reality is that he’s still got offers – from what I understand – and opportunities in the EPL that quite frankly would be difficult for us to compete with,” McCullers said. “It would be fun to have Brad on the team, he and I talk frequently about it and maybe someday it will happen ... but right now we have other priorities.”

The main reason – besides a likely high salary – that works against Friedel is that the Crew are happy with current starting goalie William Hesmer.

“You’d be putting a lot of money in a position we feel pretty good about, that Will is top five in the league already,” he said. “Friedel might be the best guy if we can get him, but it’s a one-year fix, a two-year fix, then you don’t have a 'keeper.”

Warzycha echoed Bliss’ statement, saying he’s unaware of any conversations with or an offer for Friedel for 2011.

“I know Brad at some point said he wants to come back to the league,” Warzycha said. “He is still a very good goalie, so any team that takes him is going to be very strong in that position.”

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