It was a brutal week for Revs fans, who watched their team collapse defensively 3 times in 8 days. It started with a 3-2 loss at home against RSL, which was followed by a 3-0 loss in Mexico against Pumas UNAM. The bad week concluded with a road game in Charlotte, with the Revs conceding another 3 and handing the expansion side their first ever points in MLS. To be honest, all of those things make me really sad.
Been a while since I've felt embarrassed to be a #NERevs fan. Thanks for bringing me back to my roots 😖😂
— Andy From Revs Nation (@AndyRevsNation) March 20, 2022
But, as an unpaid Revolution blogger, it is my SWORN DUTY to write about this team. Win or lose. In good times, and in bad. No matter the circumstance. Even if–
What’s that? Brad Friedel went on a podcast and continued to assume no blame for his performance as Revs manager, while also throwing players, staff, and ownership under the bus?
I mean… I should probably talk about that, right?
The worst week in Revs history?
No two ways about it. This was a tough week for the Revolution. So tough, in fact, it prompted a poster on Reddit to ask “Is this the most embarrassing (on field) week in Revs history?” My answer to that is: week? Maybe. Most embarrassing stretch of games? Not close. That honor (as mentioned in the reddit comments) goes to Brad Friedel’s 2019 Revolution.
Allow me to set the scene. 2018 sees the hiring of Brad Friedel, who was hired to whip the Revs into shape after a disappointing 2017 season. He stresses “professionalism” and fitness, and the Revs have a pretty good start to their season. Friedel’s high energy, “press for 90 minutes” tactics take the league by storm and by May the Revolution have a 4-2-2 record. 2nd place in the Eastern Conference. Things take a turn for the worse. Teams figure out how to beat the Revolution press, and New England slips down the table. Friedel throws his players under the bus to the media week in and week out. The Revs finish 2018 in 8th place and miss the playoffs.
tactical breakdown video?
It’s more of the same to start 2019. In March Friedel utters the now infamous “they don’t have fans waiting by their cars, they don’t have people beating them up” quote. He’s losing the locker room. Which brings us to April 2019. The worst 4 game stretch from the Revs that I can think of. It starts with a 3-0 loss at home against Montreal. A game in which New England register 0 shots on target. A 4-4 road draw in Kansas City would give the Revolution a point, but they did so by giving up 2 separate 2 goal leads and going down to 9 men. Then, in quick succession, it was a 6-1 loss in Philadelphia followed by a 5-0 thumping at the hands of Chicago. Friedel was fired the next day.
He said what now?
Last week, Friedel found yet another outlet to discuss his Revolution coaching career. This time he made an appearance on BBC Scotland’s “Sacked in the Morning”, which is a podcast that discusses football managers. Sports presenter Amy Irons, and former Scotland Manager Craig Levein host the show. If you’re wondering if they took a “pro-manager” stance in this episode, allow me to quote co-host Craig Levein here:
Levein: “The job itself, of football manager… I haven’t done every job in the world… but I’m putting to be challenged as the most frustrating job anybody could ever do”
So… yeah. What followed was a pretty one-sided whitewashing of Friedel’s tenure with the Revolution. In fairness, there were parts of this interview that made you genuinely feel bad for him. Everyone knows that the Krafts have a pretty hands-off approach when it comes to the Revolution. Furthermore, he had to work with then-GM Mike Burns who he politely referred to as “not the best”. He claimed, I think very credibly, that he wasn’t given the resources to succeed in New England.
— Seth (@SethMan31) March 16, 2022
However, in addition to all of those believable excuses for the failings of his coaching tenure, we find more of the same unwillingness to accept responsibility that we saw in 2019. To hear him tell it, the players were overweight, lazy and mutinous. Management was incompetent. The staff were backstabbers and spies.
Friedel: I had this administrator… would literally walk into the coaching office. He would come in and he would just sit down on the couch in front of the TV, and just sit there and almost pretend like he needed to meet me while I was busy. Sometimes stay there for an hour and a half and listen to everything.
Levein: He’s a spy isn’t he?
Friedel: Absolutely. And he would take it back to the general manager.
Whether or not that’s true, it’s a weirdly paranoid way to operate as head coach. Internal corporate espionage isn’t something you hear about every day but, whatever we call it, it wasn’t well received by Friedel and his staff. As a result, they would discuss and post fake information in an attempt to trip up their adversary. Again, their adversary is… Mike Burns? Another Revs employee. Who is being shady and, like, checking in on him?
Sadly, that tolerance for ‘fake news’ didn’t extend to his players. Friedel, a former Premier League player, wanted to install the professional type of environment he was used to in England. This meant that the players would be subject to structures like a dress code, mandatory team meals, mandatory daily weigh-ins, no cell phones while at the training facility, among others. This may not seem ridiculous, but it was not well received by the players.
Friedel: “I’ve never seen this no matter what team…. If a manager says you’re wearing a white top for our team meal, you’re wearing a white top. If they say you’re wearing a club suit to travel you’re wearing a club suit. And straightaway I have this committee of five players in my face saying we want to wear on our own clothes.”
Friedel: “I found out the physio the kit-man and there was this one administrator who were really fueling the fire. So there’d be like ‘Oh Brad is making you wear a tracksuit again, yeah I can’t believe it’. Doing it behind my back.”
I think that Brad Friedel truly had good intentions here. He’s trying his best to import a culture of professionalism like that found in many European clubs. Where, perhaps, he fails is not being able to understand or manage the players frustrations with the changes. Players, and staff, who opposed these rules were labeled as lazy and unwilling.
Irons: “If somebody was paying me $1 million a year I would be doing whatever they asked me to do, and wearing flip-flops and my body fat chick which would be absolutely fine.”
Levein “There’s a deep seeded culture in there of laziness, isn’t there.”
I think that host Amy Irons makes a dangerous assumption here, which is that $1 million figure. And perhaps, this is where Friedel got it wrong as well. This isn’t England. While some players were making $1M, most weren’t. Several players were making less than a tenth as much.
The things you can ask of a players competing in England and making ~$4M average are going to be more intense than you can ask of a group of players making closer to ~$300K average. That misunderstanding of the realities of the finances surrounding players lead to other sticking points in his relationship with the team.
Friedel says the player is a “nice guy” who is still playing. Friedel said he wanted to trade the player but was told they couldn’t get rid of him because “he’s a homegrown player, he doesn’t count against the salary cap”
— Seth (@SethMan31) March 16, 2022
He left some clues in this interview, and it didn’t take Revs fans long to find out that he was referring to Diego Fagundez. I wrote a lengthy series of tweets as to how the league was in a weird spot financially for veteran American players in 2018, but suffice to say Friedel’s lack of understanding or empathy for those types of players didn’t sit well in the locker room.
Its funny what he says now but not while i played for him. Hes a joke
— Diego Fagundez (@DiegolFagundez) March 17, 2022
So what can we take from Friedel’s comments?
It’s hard to take a whole lot from this podcast appearance since, well to put it lightly, it was a “Pro Brad Friedel” podcast. His comments show that we can safely say that Friedel still feels hard done by… well by everyone, it seems. To take his word for it, his failure as a manager could be due to budget, or player body fat percentage, or even no-good spyin’ Mike Burns.
What was conspicuously absent from this audio coaching-retrospective was any discussion of coaching. Plenty of air time was given to how silly, lazy Americans wouldn’t even agree to wear socks to avoid stepping on razor blades (oh yeah that’s in there). No mention, however, of the tactics that worked for 2 months, and then basically never again. Nothing about how he could have better handled the locker room. No discussion of his inability to adapt to the realities of MLS, where players aren’t necessarily paid to the level of their contributions.
Was it poor players, poor structure, or poor coaching that doomed that 4 game stretch in 2019? It’s almost certainly a little of each. There is, however, one thing I’ll bet negatively impacted the team…
Friedel: “When I first went when I came in for my interviews I went into the canteen and the whole refrigerator was full of Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Doritos, Cheetos, chocolate bars…”
I’m willing to bet those cold Doritos had something to do with it. Maybe players bodies couldn’t handle the change to room temperature Cool Ranch (TM). Cool is RIGHT in the name. Once you go doritos fríos, you can’t go back. Pretty sure that’s science.