A total misunderstanding.
That’s what Tottenham Hotspur’s American goalkeeper Brad Friedel calls the stir created in the US by comments referencing LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan that were pulled from an interview he did with BBC Radio.
“Not even in a million years would I disparage an American player,” Friedel told MLSsoccer.com on Friday.
He was informed by his US contacts about the controversy that the excerpts created stateside, and the accomplished US goalkeeper took it upon himself to clear the air, reaching out personally to MLSsoccer.com, among others. He has also reached out to Donovan’s representatives to clarify his initial intentions.
First, he points out how the BBC interview was actually about Fulham’s American forward Clint Dempsey and the specific question posed to Friedel, in which he referenced Donovan, was: “Why do you think that Clint Dempsey is more popular in the UK than in the US?”
“My two comments were that Clint plays over here and a lot of it is sponsorship-driven [in the US], trying to create heroes over in the US,” Friedel said via phone from England. “I used Landon as an example. When I said ‘easy road,’ I’m not saying that everything Landon has done is easy because he stayed in the US. I’m not saying that at all. I could have used other players as an example. It’s just that Landon came up at the tip of my tongue because he’s one of the best US players.
“At no time did I want to disparage or demean Landon Donovan in an way, shape or form. And if people read my quotes in a negative manner, I apologize for that. But at no time would I ever speak publicly in a negative way about another American player and mean it and actually go out and have a go at the guy. That’s not me. That’s not my personality.”
He also dispelled any notion that he is not an MLS supporter. Despite not having played in the league since 1997 when he guarded the nets for the Columbus Crew, he says he still tracks the league closely.
“I think very, very highly of what MLS has accomplished since the inception,” he said. “I think the product that they continue to put on the field is getting better and better. … I don’t want a reputation as bashing Landon Donovan and as an anti-MLS guy because it couldn’t be further from the truth.”
He points out how he’s in constant contact with MLS players and coaches and discusses league results on a weekly basis with friends like Columbus Crew assistant Mike Lapper, LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena, D.C. United manager Ben Olsen and New England Revolution GM Mike Burns. On Thursday, he met up with San Jose Earthquakes manager Frank Yallop, who was in transit through England.
Friedel, who accumulated 82 caps for the US national team in his international career, mentioned that he has helped nearly 40 players go back and forth seeking opportunities between the USA and England, including assisting US players with work permit applications in England whenever he’s been asked.
“I was not attempting and did not have any motive to make any negative comments toward Landon Donovan,” said Friedel, who played alongside Donovan at the 2002 World Cup, where the US finished in the top eight. “I was simply trying to explain how hard it is for an American player to come out here and grind out a career, and I was trying to build up Clint Dempsey. I think the world of what Clint has accomplished over here.
“If I caused any stir to Landon Donovan and his fans out there, I apologize if my quotes seem like I was having a go at Landon. I have nothing against Landon. I think he is an outstanding player.”
The 40-year-old Friedel, who has started every league match for Tottenham this year, is back in action for third-place Spurs on Sunday at Stoke (11 am ET, Fox Soccer).