Brad Friedel: I think the USMNT could beat anyone on their day
Brad Friedel is an American soccer legend. As a goalkeeper, he played 82 times for the USMNT, featured in over 500 games at club level including an 18-year stint in the English Premier League, and most recently was head coach of the New England Revolution from 2017-19.
Friedel sat down and spoke to Pickswise about a number of topics, including USA’s chances at the 2022 World Cup, what went wrong for the USWNT, and who the best goalie in EPL history is.
How far do you think the US Men’s National Team can go at next year’s World Cup (if they qualify)?
“They have solid depth in every position. I’d probably like to see just a touch more depth at the center-back position.
“They maybe need one more cycle with the same group for unity to make a mark and get to the potential of winning, but they do have some exceptionally good players now. I anticipate them to have zero issue with qualifying this time round.
“The players that we have at our disposal are all very important parts of their European and MLS clubs. Will they be favorites? No, but could they cause some real waves? Yeah. I think they have the type of team that could beat anyone on their day. Could they consistently outplay and beat a Spain, or a Germany, or an England? Probably not on a consistent level, but on their day, could they? Yeah, they probably could.
“It’d be incredibly hard to beat an Argentina or a Brazil but it’s hard for anybody to beat those teams.
“It would be really difficult, however, we have some good players. We might just need one more cycle of them playing together and having a little bit more experience but they’re still very, very good.”
Which American talent are you most excited by and why? How far do you think they can go?
“Dest is at Barcelona now, McKennie is at Juventus, Tyler Adams at RBL, Reyna at Dortmund. They’re at big clubs right now, Christian at Chelsea too.
“Josh Sargent is at Norwich, I think he has the ability to go to a bigger club than Norwich, but he has to prove himself, he’s very young.
“We’ve had a couple of players go into Italy recently and we’ll see how they fare, Busio and Tessmann.
“We’ve got a few players at massive clubs right now. I think the likes of a Weston McKennie, if he’s really focused, he could play at the biggest of big clubs in the English Premier League.
“He [McKennie] has that style of play, he’s very physical, he’s very fast, he’s good in the air, good with his feet. He is a real talent.
“Tyler Adams has incredible strength and an engine on him, he’s not as tall in stature but he fears nobody. These guys could play with the biggest of the big.”
What went wrong for the US Women’s National Team at the Olympics?
“The first game against Sweden — I don’t think in my lifetime, I’ve ever seen them get beaten like that. I’m sure I have, but I can’t remember one.
“They were well and truly outplayed from start to finish by a team who is a good team, don’t get me wrong, but not a team that is better than them.
“It could’ve had a lot to do with flying over and being jetlagged but both teams were but maybe it affected them.
“It could be that a couple of the players were ageing a little bit. I don’t know that much about the relationship between the head coach and the players.
“There’s a lot going on off the field and I know Donald Trump is weighing in again foolishly, you know, with regards to things. Maybe there was just a little too much off the field.
“They won a bronze medal so it’s a pretty good sign when people are asking questions when you still win a bronze medal. It’s not as if they didn’t make it out of the group stages.
“Now that Carli Lloyd’s retired, there might be a process of bringing in the next crop of players but that happens with every national team at some stage.
“I expect them to be number 1 or 2 as we go forward. I don’t see there being any catastrophic events with regards to the US Women’s National Team.”
Do you think it is too early to talk about Vlatko Andonovski’s future as HC of the USWNT?
“Yeah, I do. He’s got some of the world’s best players and coaching during covid is harder than people think. They wouldn’t have been able to have the number of camps and games that they needed.”
“Unless something really bad has been said or done behind the scenes that we don’t know about, I think it’s way too early to start talking about his future.”
Pulisic got off the mark for Chelsea on the opening day, having only scored six goals last season. Is double figures the bare minimum for him this season?
“I believe so, it’s hard for any player to come into the Premier League, and then it’s more difficult to come into the Premier League with one of the top sides in the league.
“There’s a settling-in period that’s always going to take place because the football’s very different than other countries that Christian has played in.
“I thought he had a very good start to his Chelsea career, he performed very, very well for the United States over the summer.
“Now that he knows what to expect fully in England, he’s a tremendous talent and I think double digits in goals and possibly assists is achievable for him.
“With the amount of chances Chelsea create, I expect him to be quite an important part of Chelsea’s team this season.”
Will the presence of a proper striker like Lukaku help Pulisic as he won’t have someone like Werner or Havertz running into his channel when pulling wide?
“I think Christian’s bright enough and clever enough as a footballer to play alongside many different types of players.
“I think playing alongside somebody who’s just simply as good as Lukaku is going to help.
“Lukaku will attract more than one defender because of his size, pace and strength which could give Christian the opportunity of being in a lot of 1v1 situations when he’s attacking which he’s very good at.
“I think having Lukaku will help any team and any player, and I think Christian will be able to take advantage of that without a doubt.
“If Werner’s going to play then I think Christian’s style will be a little bit different because of who his playing partner is, but he’s equally good enough to play that kind of style as well.”
How do you think Nuno Espirito Santo will fare at Spurs?
“It was an excellent start, I think he’ll be solid.
“For any head coach that goes to Tottenham, it’s about how your relationship is with Daniel Levy and the board. Mauricio (Pochettino) was the one I saw handle it best.
“You’re always going to have the opportunity to have world-class players, you’re always going to have the opportunity to have outstanding youth talent coming through the academy.
“It’s the ins and outs, and the discussions that go on which are going to make or break the sanctity of the relationship between Daniel and the head coach.
“Nuno seems like a really calm figure on the touchline, he seems very poised in press conferences, and he looks like a person that you could genuinely get along with, so, I see no reason why he shouldn’t have a very good relationship with Daniel.
“Daniel is a really honest guy, he gets a lot of bad publicity wrongly and solely because of how he runs the business of Tottenham, but he does a good job.
“Once you shake hands with Daniel, he doesn’t do things behind your back or anything in that nature, but he’s a tough businessman so from the little I know about Nuno, he should get along quite well with Daniel.”
Are there any US players out there you’d like Spurs to sign in the near future?
“Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Sergiño Dest. All these guys, I coached when I was with the national team.
“Josh Sargent is with Norwich now, he has the ability and the opportunity to be outstanding.
“Giovanni Reyna, who’s at Dortmund, is a very, very talented player. It’ll be interesting to see how the likes of Ledezma and Richards keep progressing.
“There’s a wealth of youth talent that was developed in the US between the years 2015-2019 with the youth national teams.
“There are quite a few players that will have the ability to play a little bit different. I’m not saying this is better or worse, it’s such a physical game and not every player will be suited to the Premier League, just like not every player will be suited to La Liga, which is an outstanding league, a little bit more technical if you like.
“Weston McKennie could play at any club in the Premier League right now. Tyler Adams, the same.”
Do you think Grealish will flop at Man City? Is he worth £100 million?
“He’s got the technical ability to fare very well at Man City.
“Sometimes it’s really hard to go into a club and have the same impact you did at your previous club. When you’ve gone from the size of a club like Villa to Man City, and I don’t mean historically speaking because Villa is a big club but right now the players that each club has are entirely different.
“He’s going to have to get used to not being the best technically on the team. Now he’s joint with about 7 or 8 or 9 others.
“He’s going to have to understand and adapt to a new system which I’m sure he will. I don’t know how long it’s going to take him to do it but he’s a very talented footballer, normally the footballers that have his talent can adapt quite quickly.
“I’ve still got a lot of friends there [Villa] that spoke very highly of him, so I hope he does incredibly well, I hope he does really well.”
Roy Keane recently said that Peter Schmeichel was overrated. Who in your opinion has been the best keeper in EPL history?
“Schmeichel’s got to be in the top 3, whether I could put him as 1 is hard.
“David Seaman’s up there, his consistency was superb, not a flash goalkeeper at all but so solid, he really was.
“For me, it’s a joint number one with Schmeichel and Seaman.
“Roy knows Peter very well because they played so long together, I don’t if they have some history with each other, Who knows.
“We’ll have to see how his career pans out over the years, but Ederson could be in that conversation.
“I would say over my years probably Schmeichel and Seaman would be my joint number ones.”