Brad Friedel: Transatlantic Trailblazer

usa gk brad friedel

Player Profile: Brad Friedel

Date of Birth: 18/5/1971

Height: 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in)

Position: Goalkeeper

National Team: United States

International Caps: 82

Club Career

One of the United States’ first global football superstars, Brad Friedel enjoyed a 20-year playing career which saw him turn out for seven clubs across four countries and two continents.

He began his footballing life with UCLA Bruins, a college football (and we do mean association football, not *that* football) outfit in 1990. In three years at this amateur level, he appeared in goal 66 times.

During this time, Friedel – who was also a dab hand at several other sports including basketball and tennis – won several awards for his contributions to UCLA sport. While football in the States wasn’t the phenomenon it is today, Friedel certainly has his own unique place in its sporting history as one of the nation’s finest exports.

The history of Brad Friedel could look drastically different had the British authorities been less reluctant to grant him a work permit. He tried to sign for a number of UK teams in the early to mid-90s: Celtic, Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, Newcastle and Sunderland. All of them immediately recognised Friedel’s herculean presence between the sticks and natural leadership attributes and wanted to sign him up. Unfortunately for Friedel, bureaucracy meant these moves never materialised.

Instead, he joined Brøndby IF in the Danish Superliga. There he was a backup keeper, making ten league appearances in his one and only season with the club. Following this brief stint, he was snapped up by Graeme Souness during his infamous era as Galatasaray manager. This would prove to be Friedel’s first taste of regular first-team football – talk about a baptism of fire.

A stint back in his homeland with Columbus Crew followed. This was the maiden season of Major League Soccer (MLS) in America. Friedel, it transpired, would be one of the poster-boys of this new era – he was named in the very first Team of the Season.

In 1997, a 25-year-old Friedel made what would turn out to be a career-defining move to England with Liverpool. It was in Blighty that he would spend the remaining 18-years of his career. He struggled to make a real impact on Merseyside, making just 25 league appearances in three seasons and playing not second, but third fiddle to David James and Sander Westerveld.

When Graeme Souness – Friedel’s manager at Galatasaray – signed the American for Blackburn Rovers in 2000, he did not come with much baggage in the way of expectation. But, quickly, Rovers fans realised that Friedel was no run-of-the-mill goalkeeper.

A propensity to produce extraordinarily athletic saves for a man of his build and his assertive command of his box ensured cult status for Friedel at Blackburn within his first two seasons at Ewood Park. They gained promotion back to the Premier League at the end of the 00-01 season and eased to a 10th place finish at the end of their first season back in the top flight.

Friedel’s following six seasons with Blackburn coincided with the club’s best years in recent times. This was no coincidence. Friedel, backed up by a slew of quality defenders including the likes of Lucas Neil, Ryan Nelsen and Chris Samba, saw his Rovers side achieve two 6th place and one 7th place finish in this period.

They also reached two League Cup and two FA Cup semi-finals, progressing from the first in 01-02 to win the League Cup – predictably, Friedel was named Man of the Match in the Final. A personal highlight for Brad will have been the goal he scored against Charlton Athletic – he stabbed home in the dying moments to equalise for Rovers, only to have his goal cancelled out by a Claus Jensen winner moments later. An anti-climax, but a fun one.

After 358 almost uninterrupted Blackburn performances, Friedel joined a Champions League-chasing Aston Villa in 2008, ending an eight-year spell at Ewood Park. While he left to become a Villain, he remains a genuine Blackburn Hero.

In his three seasons in goal for Villa, he played every Premier League game. He did the same in his first season at Tottenham Hotspur, a move which meant Friedel played Champions League football for the first time in his career. After two more seasons as backup, Friedel finally hung up the gloves which had made innumerable saves. Even evergreens eventually lose their leaves.

International Career

There can’t be too many players with 450+ Premier League appearances whose international career began three years before their professional club career, but Brad Friedel is one. He represented the USMNT when he was without a club following his failure to get a work permit in the UK in the early 90s.

Since then, Friedel went on to make 82 USA appearances, representing his country at three World Cups. While his nation was relatively unsuccessful in this time, Friedel was part of the USA side that finished in 3rd place at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup.

At the 2002 World Cup, Friedel came to global attention as a star in the USA’s run to the Quarter-Finals, saving two penalties along the way, a joint record.

Where is Brad Friedel Now?

Brad Friedel continued to be involved with his country in the management side of the game, taking charge of the United States Under-19 team. From there he graduated to the Under 20s as assistant manager and was part of the team who were triumphant in the 2017 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship.

Following this, Friedel took his first senior role as head coach of MLS outfit New England Revolution. He was dismissed a little under two years later, some say a little unfairly, having won less than 30% of his games in charge.

Friedel has made clear his intentions to get back into the game as a manager.

Facts about Brad Friedel – Did You Know?

The most consecutive starts in Premier League history: the keeper was named in the starting XI 310 times in succession, nearly twice the previous record of 167.

He’s a Pundit: Brad Friedel spent many years post-retirement as a commentator and pundit for the likes of Setanta and Bein Sports.

Always an Evergreen: Friedel is the 4th oldest player to ever play in the Premier League, making his final appearance at 42 years of age.