ExtraTime Radio Podcast
LISTEN: With the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs still on a break and Andrew Wiebe welcoming Cameron Russell into the world (congrats!), the ExtraTime Radio crew spends some time talking to new Revolution head coach Brad Friedel to understand his philosophy heading into his first professional coaching gig, and previewing the young USMNT squads matchup in Portugal (3:45 pm ET; FS1, Univision, UniMás). Subscribe so you never miss a show! Download this episode!
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Before Brad Friedel was introduced as the New England Revolution’s newest head coach on Monday, a slew of checkmarks unfolded first.
It began with Mike Burns, the club’s general manager, screening a list of nearly two dozen candidates. Then Burns, alongside club president Brian Bilello, interviewed six to eight potential hires, after which owners Robert and Jonathan Kraft fielded interviews for the final shortlist.
The process spanned nearly seven weeks, and the Revs ultimately landed their seventh coach in club history, following Jay Heaps’ dismissal with five games left in the 2017 MLS season. When Burns was asked why Friedel landed the job, he was particularly blunt about criticism that he’s hiring a close friend in the soccer world.
“There’s been some criticism out there that I’ve hired a friend, and I want to address this head on: He, in my opinion, is the best person for the job bar none, and of anyone I spoke with,” Burns said. “I feel like it’s a new beginning for us. But Brad for me, is the best person for the job, he’s the right person for the job on the field, off the field. I know these are just words right now and our actions and our results and all of that will end up dictating everything, but I feel extremely fortunate that Brad is here.”
The question, though, still lingered: Why Friedel, who’s never coached at the professional level, especially after Heaps was also hired six years ago as a first-time head coach?
Friedel danced around the question somewhat, but did point to his coaching background at lower levels. The 46-year-old holds a UEFA “Pro” coaching license, led the U.S. U-19 men’s national team and served in Tottenham’s academy as his playing career wound down. He also said he’ll lean upon and work closely with his staff, which includes Mike Lapper and Marcelo Neveleff as assistants and Ruben Garcia as goalkeeper coach.
“I wouldn’t have taken this if I didn’t think myself and my entire staff were ready for it,” Friedel said. “I wish that preseason started tomorrow to be honest; we have some time now. The good of that is we have time to prepare the squad on how we want to do it. The bad news is we have to wait to get on the training ground.”
While Friedel is eager to get to work, he’ll encounter an iteration of MLS worlds apart from when he played with Columbus Crew SC from 1996-97. From then until now, he played 17 years in the Premier League and made three US national team World Cup rosters, during which time the league has transformed tremendously.
There are now Designated Players, Targeted and General Allocation Money and various other roster-construction rules. Friedel, though, said he feels fluent in all of these developments and isn’t worried about navigating the various mechanisms he’ll have to use to build his team.
“The last two and a half years, I’ve also been engulfed in the US system the whole time,” Friedel said. “I understand the salary cap, I understand the TAM arrangements, I understand the DP process, I understand how certain clubs operate under those budgets and certain clubs want to operate over that budget. That’s irrelevant to us. Whatever budget is given to us, we’ll work with.”
Friedel also said that he feels it’s the right time for him to enter the head coaching world at the professional level. He said he’s been mentored by managers such as Graeme Souness, Mauricio Pochettino and John McDermott, and now the transition makes sense.
“I had a lot of conversations with them about what I was really getting myself into,” Friedel said. “I fell in love with [coaching]. Soccer is in my blood, it always has been. From that point on, I’ve done everything in my power to try and learn to the point where I was ready to become a head coach.”