BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – US men's national team hero Brad Friedel left the field to a standing ovation on what he admitted himself could possibly be his last game as a professional on American soil.
The 82-times capped goalkeeper kept a gallant Chicago Fire side at bay with a flawless display between the posts before leaving the field to a rapturous applause from every fan at Toyota Park as Tottenham Hotspur emerged 2-0 victors over the MLS side (HIGHLIGHTS).
“It was very good, it’s always nice,” Friedel told reporters after the game in which he played 77 minutes. “I think this is one of the last times anyone in the States is going to get to see me play on home soil, so it was a very good reception and it was nice to be a part of.”
Mauricio Pochettino’s men capitalized on a lapse in concentration from home captain Jeff Larentowicz, who was otherwise assured in an unfamiliar center back role, to take a fifth-minute lead. The alert Lewis Holtby stole possession just outside the box and squared for man-of-the-moment Harry Kane to shoot right-footed past Sean Johnson from eight yards.
The 20-year-old Kane, who was given the honor of throwing the first pitch at Wrigley Field on Thursday, where Spurs were guests of the Chicago Cubs, showed a maturity and confidence in leading the line in front of a five-man midfield to give his side a lead they would never relinquish.
- The latest Fire headlines on Chicago-Fire.com
Kane was impressed by the quality of the opposition Spurs have faced on their three-game stretch in the USA, where they also drew 3-3 with the Seattle Sounders and beat Toronto FC 3-2.
“It’s very good,” Kane said. “All the teams we’ve played have been top teams, it’s not far off [Premier League standard]. Everyone knows the MLS is getting bigger and better and there’s a lot of great players coming over here to play and we saw that.”
Friedel echoed the praise of his younger teammate, and insisted the tour “was a big success.”
“We had very good crowds at all three venues and I know on the training pitch it was a big success,” he said. “We trained twice a day most days, very hard, he’s [Pochettino’s] a very demanding manager, but also very enjoyable.”
Friedel, a USMNT veteran of three World Cups, added: “The MLS gets better and better each year. Every time I come back I’m seeing something else has grown, whether it’s another team pops up, better players, the growth at the academy level, everything is vastly improved from five years ago, ten years ago, 15 years ago and it’s going to continue to be that way. I don’t think anyone in the US is going to rest on anything and they’re going to continue to try to grow things.”
Friedel had to be at his best to deny the Fire on a couple of occasions through Matt Watson and Dilly Duka, as Chicago eventually gave up a second goal in the move of the game in the 84th minute.
Halftime substitutes Roberto Soldado and Aaron Lennon combined beautifully and intricately to prise open the Fire defense, before the latter skipped past second-half goalkeeper Kyle Reynish and calmly slotted home into the empty net.
The Fire coach Frank Yallop was happy to come through the game unscathed, and insisted “we had a good account of ourselves tonight.”
“All in all, I’m happy with both sets of players, and obviously the result is not what you want but coming through unscathed and getting ready for our game on Wednesday is the most important thing for us at the moment,” Yallop said.
He added: “It’s great to have any top team in Europe, not just England, come and play against us here. I think it was exciting for our players and it was certainly exciting to coach against a team of the caliber we played against in Tottenham.”