The Revolution got another 3 points on the road this week. This time they plied their trade north of the border, defeating Toronto FC 2-1. There were a few nervy moments in the back, and we were all worried for the health of Matt Polster, who left with a non contact injury, but on the whole it was business as usual. Bou got another goal to add to his tally, and Tajon Buchanan (an Ontario native) put on a show in front of his friends and family.
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) August 15, 2021
It is partly due to Buchanan’s success that I’ve seen a curious narrative begin to take hold among the Revolution faithful:
Does Brad Friedel Deserve More Credit?
I’ve seen countless tweets in the past few weeks seeking to give Brad Friedel credit for the successes of Carles Gil, Tajon Buchanan, and Matt Turner, among others. He was the coach responsible for bringing them into the Revolution, so shouldn’t he get some credit for the Revs success? I’ll make no bones about it, no. Partially because he was not responsible for signing players, a job that would have fallen to GM Mike Burns. Having said that, I can understand wanting to give credit where it’s due for some of New England’s best signings in recent memory.
Brad Friedel led the Revolution through about one and half seasons as head coach and amassed a 12-21-13 record with the club. He’s perhaps best remembered, in his time, for insinuating fans should wait for players in the parking lot after games to beat some motivation into them.
Brad Friedel isn’t sold on MLS’ mentality. pic.twitter.com/A9B6prsVN3
— B/R Football (@brfootball) March 29, 2019
He would eventually be fired after the Revolution set the MLS record for most goals conceded over a 2, 3, and 4 game stretch (11, 15, and 18 respectively) in May 2019.
To say there were no bright spots from his tenure would be unfair. Many of the Revs brightest stars came into the team during the Friedel years. By my count, 7 players on the current Revolution roster came in under Friedel, including some pretty big names. While I don’t think this should fill us with any additional nostalgia, let’s examine the case for and against Brad Friedel’s legacy as coach.
The Case FOR Friedel’s Legacy
Friedel’s largest international signing was, without a doubt, Carles Gil. The dynamic midfielder was signed from Deportivo la Coruña in 2019 for a club record fee of $2 million. Gil had played in La Spain’s La Liga and with Aston Villa in the EPL before joining New England. So far, in time with the Revolution he has won “Newcomer of the Year” in 2019 and is the runaway favorite for league MVP to this point in the 2021 season.
Friedel also brought in the likes of Christian Penilla from Pachuca, Luis Caicedo from Cortulua, and (MLS All Star) Wlifried Zahibo from Gimnasic. All of those players had some level of success in MLS play.
Friedel was head coach in New England for 2 MLS Superdrafts. In those drafts he selected current starters Tajon Buchanan, Brandon Bye, and Dejuan Jones. Buchanan has been a rising star both for the Revs and for the Canadian National Team. He recently won the “Young Player Award” at the Gold Cup, and is garnering interest from multiple clubs in Europe.
Dejuan Jones has been earning some attention from the national media after his 2+ seasons at left back and even has some European suiters of his own. Brandon Bye has been a stalwart at right back with the Revolution, appearing in 92 of a possible 125 games dating back to 2018. Also he is legit.
Brandon Bye is legit.
— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) July 10, 2020
Giving Matt Turner a Chance
Perhaps the most influential thing that Brad Friedel did during his tenure was to give Matt Turner his first run of games at the MLS level. Turner has developed into one of the league’s premier keepers, and has worked his way into the USMNT discussion, even earning the “Best Goalkeeper” award at this year’s Gold Cup. Just a few short years ago, however, he was relegated to third string duty, and often loaned out to lower divisions. Brad Friedel does deserve some credit for recognizing what he had in Turner and giving him a real shot to compete for starting minutes.
The Case AGAINST Friedel’s legacy
We can all agree that Carles Gil is an excellent player, and probably the best player on the team. We should also be able to agree that Gil vastly underperformed in his time under Brad Friedel. In his 12 games with Friedel at the helm he scored 3 goals and had 2 assists. Extrapolate that over a full season and you’re looking at a 9 goal, 6 assist season. These aren’t bad number per se, but they certainly aren’t earning him “Newcomer of the Year” honors. Fortunately, after Friedel left, Gil went on a tear, scoring 7 goals and adding 12 assists to finish out the season.
Where Gil was a “hit”, Friedel also had a handful of “misses” in his time as well. Left back, Gabriel Somi was signed from the Swedish top flight and underperformed greatly. He ended up making only 14 appearances over a season and a half with the club, often being benched in favor of rookies or centerbacks played out of position. Guillermo Hauche was signed midway through the 2018 season and was lauded by Friedel as a “goal scorer”. He didn’t score any goals, and only made 4 appearances before quietly being cut at the end of the year.
He even failed to land his high visibility international signings. If rumors are to be believed, Friedel’s Revolution made $4M+ offer for Paul Jose Mpoku of the Belgian top flight. That offer was accepted by the club, but the player was unwilling to come to New England. Might have had something to do with New Englands record?
The Revolution have a history of making good selections in the MLS Superdraft and that continued under Brad Friedel. Thanks to some shrewd Business by Mike Burns (?!)
Friedel ended up with 2 draft picks in the first round of both the 2018 and 2019 drafts, with no pick falling below 11th in the draft order. While credit is due for getting 3 useable players from that process, he wasn’t exactly picking players out of thin air.
Tajon Buchanan stands out as a good example. Buchanan wasn’t some unknown going into the draft and only a shrewd coaching mind could see the potential. He was mocked to go very early in the first round. He was already signed to a Generation Adidas contract, making his salary free to the Revs. While the draft is mostly a crapshoot in the modern MLS, there are indicators that can portend success.
Benching Matt Turner
If you want to give credit to Friedel for giving Matt Turner his first opportunity with the first team, you need to assign adequate blame to Friedel for also benching him not once, but twice during his season and a half in charge. Turner still managed to put up gaudy numbers in spite of this, but who knows if he may have developed more quickly had he not been pulled from the starting lineup in favor of this guy…
I’m not trying to say that Friedel deserves no credit, or even necessarily that he was a bad manager (another time perhaps). I am trying to say that the current Revolution team shouldn’t make you feel that he went underappreciated. He signed some very good players. He also signed some not so good players. That’s the way it goes in soccer. He also, more importantly, mismanaged those players and instituted some practices within the team that lost him the locker room. And lost him some games. So many games.
Think I’m wrong? Think Friedel should get his due? As always let us know what you think on social!