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Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Friedel looks to the future of MLS

Brad Friedel has a new one-year contract but is also Tottenham Hotspur's American Ambassador, a role he has already started.

Friedel looks to the future of MLS

He was on TalkSPORT, the BBC for coverage and then over to Ireland for their coverage so with each new occasion he is seen he is silently promoting Tottenham.

Naturally if there is anything to know about the USA team or MLS then Friedel is the obvious man to turn to, especially as another goalkeeper from the Premier League, Tim Howard, was at the World Cup. BT Sport were the latest to want his views.

Brad felt the Group was going to be tough to get out of but not impossible, a win in the first game was vital. The result, ex Tottenham man and USA captain Clint Dempsey scores the 5th fastest goal in World Cup history. From there the US team progressed and entertained as they unluckily went out to Belgium.

Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and now another ex Tottenham player Jermain Defoe play Major League Soccer. Viewing figures have tripled since NBC took over and starting promoting the sport, which is very popular with children and particularly popular in the Hispanic community.

“We have been able to compete since 1990 but I think the reason that people are noticing it more is because of the success of the MLS.

“The league is growing, there are a lot more names over there, the stadiums are much better, the crowds are much better, the TV deals are much better so therefore there are more eyes on it.

“As the MLS keeps growing and the US keeps qualifying for tournaments the fan base is going to continue to grow and with that the expectation will grow and this is probably the last World Cup that will see the US happy at the fact we got through the group phase.”

Brad feels there needs to be a marked improvement in the game outcomes, they can't continue to be outplayed. But it's worth remembering that football is only a generation old, the players are not European standard generally. There is work to do to bring them to a level where they can compete on a more even playing field but I think sometimes people forget that.

People like former national player Landon Donovan don't help. At 32 he was dropped for the tournament and said he wouldn't mind if the USA failed. He then went on to criticise the negative tactics Klinsmann adopted, yet the States did better than expected. They played to their strength which was fitness in the tough South American conditions.

He had a moan after Belgium put them out the tournament.

"It's certainly a missed opportunity. The thought of having a game Saturday – the day after the Fourth of July, against [Lionel] Messi and Argentina, with what was already a swelling audience – would have been incredible.

"I think we're all disappointed in what happened yesterday. I think the most disappointing is we didn't seem like we gave it a real effort, from a tactical standpoint. I thought the guys did everything they could, they did everything that was asked of them, but I don't think we were set up to succeed yesterday, and that was tough to watch.

They were set up in a way that was opposite from what they've been the past couple years, which is opening up, passing, attacking – trying to do that. And the team's been successful that way. Why they decided to switch that in the World Cup, none of us will know. From a playing standpoint, I think the guys will probably be disappointed in the way things went."

He seems to have forgotten that the tactics almost worked, US could easily have won the game in extra-time, they were the stronger side causing all sorts of problems. Still there is not a lot you can do about sour grapes.

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As with any sport in it's infancy there will be differences of opinion as to how it should grow but Friedel feels that while the national team need to improve, it's the coaching at youth level that will make a difference. Without access to quality coaching it will be difficult to improve the standard of players. Quality grass roots coaching is at the heart of any sporting growth.

“The spirit, the endurance, the work rate and the endeavour was there in abundance, but if you give 38 attempts to the other team as we did in our final game then that doesn’t spell the ultimate success.

“As the US fans become more educated in the game they are not going to put up with being out-shot four-to-one in games anymore, or out-possessed 60-40, they are going to want to know how our players are being developed, where they are being developed and why in a nation of 350-400m people we can’t find a Messi or Neymar.”

“The US has to take a really big step now. They must focus on the amount of quality coaching they have at the grass roots level. I think they have got a great base to work from now, they have 19 MLS teams and a few more to come.

“They could mandate with the NASL and USL Pro (second and third tier leagues) that everyone has youth academies that are free of charge. If we can start changing that from a pay-as-you-play set-up then we can really start making some progress."

Only 10 members of the USA’s 23-man World Cup squad play their football in the MLS, many were sourced from Germany. Klinsmann encourages every American player to go abroad where football in lived and breathed to experience a different outlook, to appreciate what it's all about and bring that experience back to the United States in the way Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey have.

“That’s not a problem. It is a fantastic opportunity for the younger players to develop in a different way and keep in mind that every time you go to another country it is a great cultural experience too."

Bringing players who are young enough to still add high quality to what MLS has to offer is important and the signing of Jermain Defoe has been super successful for Toronto FC and if you listen to any of the commentators they have a high regard for his finishing ability, hardly surprising when he has 8 goals in 11 games. 

“He [Defoe] is a strong character and a great goalscorer and I think he will find that the MLS will suit him, especially with the players he has playing with him in Toronto. He will get a lot of chances and his striking ability is outstanding.”

The States as well as being a market for fans is a market for young players. Whoever can find and pick up a young American and turn them into a superstar is going to get massive exposure for their club and capture the interest of a whole new group of fans.

I hope it's an opportunity that Tottenham don't miss.


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