FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Brad Friedel spent years preparing for this opportunity.
Throughout the final four seasons of his illustrious playing career Friedel was also beginning his coaching education by working in the Tottenham Hotspur Academy, and during his last year at Spurs he served as a player-coach with the first team under Mauricio Pochettino.
All the while Friedel was working towards obtaining his coaching licenses – first his UEFA “B” license, then his UEFA “A” license, and finally the highest license available, the UEFA “Pro” license.
Those experiences landed the now-46-year-old a head coaching gig with the U.S. Under-19 Men’s National Team – and an assistant role with the Under-20s – a position he held for two years before stepping into his next challenge as the seventh head coach in New England Revolution history.
It’s a challenge he can’t wait to tackle, and one he feels strongly that he’s ready to face.
“The transition when you first start off and you’re a player, you have a completely different mentality of how the world works and how soccer works in general,” Friedel said on Monday at his introductory press conference. “It was very important for me to know that’s exactly what I wanted to do.
“I didn’t want to jump straight into a head coaching job the day after I stopped playing. A lot of my friends and colleagues have done that. Some of the world’s greatest players have done that and they’ve found it really, really difficult. I did it a little bit different.”
Friedel instead bided his time, soaking up as much information as he could from mentors like Pochettino, former Tottenham head of coaching and development John McDermott, and his former manager at Blackburn Rovers, Graeme Souness.
“I had a lot of conversations with them about what I was really getting myself into, and I fell in love with it,” Friedel said. “Soccer is in my blood. It always has been. From that point on, I’ve done everything in my power to try to learn to the point of where I was ready to become a head coach.”
With his deep knowledge of the game and “obsession with winning,” as he put it, Friedel convinced general manager Michael Burns, club president Brian Bilello, and investor/operators Robert and Jonathan Kraft that he was the right man to reverse the Revs’ fortunes after a few lean years.
Friedel was amongst a “quality group of candidates,” Burns said, and as the list was whittled down through deeper conversations with Bilello and the Krafts, a clear favorite for the job emerged.
“I feel like it’s a new beginning for us,” said Burns. “Brad, for me, is the best person for the job. He’s the right guy for the job on the field, off the field. And 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 on board.”
“Frankly, Brad was at the top of the list for Michael, the top of the list for me, and the top of the list for Robert and Jonathan,” added Bilello. “In the end, that made it a very easy decision for the club.”
With Friedel and the rest of his coaching staff – assistants Mike Lapper, Marcelo Neveleff and Ruben Garcia – all on board, the Revs can now turn their attention to the process of building a roster for the 2018 season, beginning with some critical decisions on contract options in the next few weeks.
Those decisions will play a massive part in shaping the squad for next season, and while Friedel expects some turnover within the locker room, he also sees significant potential in a group that featured the seventh-best attack in MLS in 2017.
“I think with most teams and MLS in general, if you get everyone working together and focused to do what you want to do, and you get a good team camaraderie in the changing room, that you can get a lot of results,” said Friedel. “This is not a team that is in disarray, that’s for sure. I think there needs to be little tweaks to it, and then my staff and I need to go in and try to mold the team and get the confidence back.
“You can look at the stats – stats don’t lie. Over 60 goals conceded is too much, and that’s something we’ll need to address. But we know what we need to address and we’ll work hard to address those issues.”
That work has already begun in earnest, and it’ll ramp up come late January when the players report for 2018 preseason camp – “I wish that preseason started tomorrow, to be honest,” Friedel said. That’s when the Revolution’s new coaching staff will really begin to dig in and put their stamp on the squad, as they aim to get the club back to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
“I think what’s really important is the mentality of the players,” Friedel said. “Fans and players are usually the two most important things at every single club. Us as a staff, we’re employed to try to make those players better. Whatever players are in front of us, that’s going to be our focus – on getting a team environment, a winning environment, and an environment where every player wants to work hard.”