ISN had the opportunity to speak with former U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Brad Friedel, a man with tremendous experience and insight. He has played at every level of the game, seeing MLS in its infancy with the Columbus Crew and also the highest level of English football with Liverpool, Blackburn, Aston Villa, and Tottenham. He represented the U.S. at three World Cups and now works with the U.S. U-19 national team. He’s a legendary player that has done it all, a tremendous example for others to follow.
Friedel spoke with ISN about the Gold Cup, American soccer, MLS, the grassroots movement, and the work of Allstate in the soccer community.
Some pundits have dubbed this year’s edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup a disappointment, an event full of “B” teams and lopsided competition. Friedel doesn’t see it that way. He views it as a great opportunity for coaches to see different players, a positive event for the U.S. He pointed out that both Jordan Morris and Darlington Nagbe have been pleasant surprises. He also said that the pair should benefit from being in front of head coach Bruce Arena as he develops a team for 2018 World Cup qualifying and beyond. He went on to say that coaches want to see how players respond in games, but also off the field in training and even at the hotel.
Friedel was very supportive as Arena, saying that his hiring (and Klinsmann’s firing) was “a change in results which was needed. Now we are back in a solid position.” Friedel continued to say that he expects the U.S. to qualify for the World Cup in Russia and that good work is being done to develop young players. There’s plenty of proof for the latter as the U.S. national team program is coming off one of its most successful cycles from top to bottom; everyone is experiencing great success and there is room for tremendous optimism.
This is very different from low points in the program: the U-23s falling out of Olympic qualifying in 2014 under Caleb Porter, a defeat at the hands of Jamaica in the 2015 Gold Cup, or a string of losses to Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Mexico last year.
Friedel was bullish on the growth and success of MLS, having seen the league in the very early days.
“We knew we needed a professional league. It’s essential. You want to encourage people to play for their country and their city. MLS has driven everything forward. It’s really incredible to see. It’s night and day since 1992.”
The topic of grassroots soccer also came up in our conversation and Friedel was quite adamant about the value of every person in the beautiful game. You can tell he truly cares about the sport and everyone involved.
“The grassroots level is where you find everyone: fans, amateur players, pro players, coaches. Every single one of us started at the grassroots.”
No wonder he has been supportive of Allstate and their work in the soccer community. Allstate has been involved with soccer in the U.S. for years and their sponsorship of the Gold Cup this year continues that trend. As Friedel put it, “big events need big sponsors” and Allstate certainly fits the bill.
The insurance giant has always paired corporate sponsorship with community service at the grassroots level. Friedel has joined the likes of Brian McBride, Adolfo Rios, and Tony Meola as an Allstate brand ambassador, spending numerous hours out at various events throughout the country. Every event is focused on giving back to the community, giving back to the game we all love.
Allstate scheduled stops in Glendale (AZ), Arlington (TX), and the Bay Area (CA) with events surrounding this year’s Gold Cup. Youth players, programs, and schools are always involved, especially those in underserved and underprivileged areas. The stop in Glendale featured the Gold Cup trophy and a clinic and Allstate gear for youth players in the area. It’s a fun time for all involved.
“I want to make them enjoy the experience, put a smile on their face,” Friedel responded when asked about working with the youth.
Getting to meet your idol, a U.S. national team legend, and spending time with them would certainly put a smile on anyone’s face. That’s a big part of Friedel’s commitment to the game, giving back time and time again just like our friends at Allstate.