FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution spent the past seven weeks searching for the seventh head coach in club history and on Thursday morning they officially got their man, announcing U.S. Men’s National Team legend and longtime English Premier League goalkeeper Brad Friedel as the one to lead the Revs into the future.
Friedel emerged as New England’s top choice from a large pack of “quality candidates” according to General Manager Michael Burns, as the Revolution brass were impressed by the 46-year-old’s coaching philosophy, his winning mentality, and his seamless transition from player to coach.
“I think Brad is exactly what we need right now,” said Burns, who was upfront about his relationship with Friedel, his former teammate with the U.S. National Team. “When you really know a person like I know Brad in terms of what makes him tick and what’s at the core of Brad, he’s a winner. He’s always been a winner throughout his playing career.
“This was something that he really wanted. I think our fans, I think our players, will realize right from the get-go that he’s here to win, he’s here to be successful.
“We wanted to do our due diligence in terms of going through the process, interviewing as many people as it took, but at the end of it, we came to a decision that we feel Brad is the right guy to take us into 2018 and beyond.”
Friedel’s 23-year playing career featured stops in Denmark, Turkey and MLS (with the Columbus Crew in 1996 and 1997), but most notably he spent 19 years in England, where he set the record for most consecutive appearances with 310 from 2004 through 2012.
A native of Lakewood, Ohio, Friedel also famously led the U.S. to the quarterfinals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup – stopping two penalty kicks in a group-stage match against South Korea – and those credentials earn him instant respect in the American soccer community and in the Revs’ locker room.
“He will command respect, but he’ll also show the guys respect,” Burns said. “He’ll have a commanding presence, and I think that will translate onto the field, as well. He has strong ideas in not only how he wants to play, but how he wants the locker room. I think the guys are going to be impressed.”
Friedel began transitioning into a coaching career during his final year as a player at Tottenham Hotspur when he assisted with the club’s academy for the 2014-15 campaign, and he soon landed a head coaching gig with the U.S. Under-19 National Team, a group he led in 2016 and 2017.
While this will be Friedel’s first head coaching job at the professional level, Burns is confident that his experiences the past few years have prepared him for the task at hand.
“He was preparing for this,” Burns said of Friedel, who holds his UEFA “Pro” coaching license. “For us to get a coach that is younger, hungry, and really wants this and has some strong ideas for us to get better, it’s exciting.
“I’m excited that we were able to come to an agreement with him. I’m looking forward to getting him in here. I’m looking forward to working with him, and getting into next season.”
That work begins in earnest immediately, as Friedel and the rest of New England’s technical staff need to make decisions on whether to exercise or decline player options by the end of the month. None of those decisions have been made, according to Burns, who always wanted the new head coach to be heavily involved in that decision-making process.
“We have time to sort those things out, which is good,” said Burns, who also referenced Friedel’s extensive connections within the game as a benefit to roster building. “I’m looking forward to Brad and the staff getting in so we can go through those and make those decisions.
“I said this to the players before – ideally no decisions would be made until a head coach was on board, because I think it’s critical that the head coach is involved in those decisions, and Brad certainly will be involved.”
Burns and Friedel have already been working hard to flesh out the coaching staff. Jay Heaps’ assistants Tom Soehn, Carlos Llamosa and Aidan Byrne (head of fitness) are no longer with the organization, while Mike Lapper and Marcelo Neveleff will be assistants under Friedel.
There will be plenty of fresh faces in the mix when the Revs kick off 2018 preseason camp in late January, and after the disappointment of missing the MLS Cup Playoffs the past two seasons, it’ll signify a clean slate for everybody involved with the Revolution organization.
“It’s a fresh start for everyone,” said Burns. “It’s a fresh start certainly for me and the staff and the coaches, but there’s also a fresh start for the players.
“Our expectation is that the players are going to come back raring to go, fit, ready, fighting for spots. They all have to show a new coach and a new coaching staff that they deserve to be on the team, in the 11, in the 18 and on the field. That’s what we’re trying to create is competition on the field, and Brad will oversee that.
“It is, in a sense, a new beginning for us.”