Sunday, October 12, 2014

Freidel is the ultrimate survivor

At the age of 43, Brad Friedel is the oldest player in the English Premiership.  He is also the current holder of the Premier League record for most consecutive appearances with 310.  His career, however, was not always smooth sailing.  He did not secure a starting job in the Premiership until he was 30 years old, which made his record more incredible.



Friedel was the starting keeper for the US Olympic Team in 1992.  He was also on US National Team player pool for the World Cup in 1994.  However, the goalkeeper debate in the early 1990's was between Tony Meola and Kasey Keller.  Tony Meola was the starting keeper for the USA at World Cup 1990 and Kasey Keller was the backup.  Before USA 1994, Meola and Friedel signed with USSF as full-time national team players while Keller went to play for Millwall in England and became a star there.  Bora Milutinovi─ç, the head coach of the USA team, preferred Meola and never considered Keller for the World Cup Finals in 1994.  That led to a goalkeeper debate in the US.  Meola went to the WC Finals as the starting keeper and Friedel the backup.  Milutinovic resigned in the summer of 1995.  Steve Sampson, the new head coach, immediately brought back Kasey Keller.  Keller and Friedel would alternate the starting lineup during the Copa America in 1995 where the USA reached the semi-final.  The pair would battle for the starting keeper job for the next three years. Keller got the nod for the World Cup Finals in 1998.  Friedel would only start the match vs Yugoslavia after the USA was eliminated.  Finally, Friedel got his chance in 2002 at the age of 31 with both Meola and Keller as his backups.  He became became the first keeper to save two penalty kicks during regular play in World Cup history as the USA reached the quarter-final.  But despite of his performance, Freidel only received 82 caps for the USA while Meola had 100 and Keller 101 caps.



Brad Friedel also struggled with his early club career.  In 1993, Brian Clough was interested to bring him to Nottingham Forrest, but his work permit was rejected by the English FA.  Instead, he went to play for Brondby in Denmark.  He never got his chance there as Mogens Krogh was the starting keeper.  He stayed for less than a year.  In 1995, Sunderland tried to sign him, but again his work permit was rejected again.  Graeme Souness brought him to Galatasaray and played only one year there.  He returned to the US in 1996 and played for Columbus Crew.  



Finally, he secured a move to Liverpool on December, 1997.  When he first arrived in Liverpool, he beat out David James briefly.  However, the 1997-1998 season was an interesting time for English keepers in England.  David Seaman was the starting keeper for England, but he was 34 years old.  Both of England's backups, Nigel Martyn and Tim Flowers were 31 years old. David James and Ian Walker were projected to be the future for England.  However, while Friedel took over the job from "Calmity James"(David James' nickname), Ian Walker also lost his starting job to Espen Baardsen in Tottenham Hotspurs.  Suddenly, there was a keeper crisis situation in England.  Both of England's future keepers could not start fpor their clubs in the Premiership.  There was a public outcry over the situation.  James won back his starting job. After James was sold in 1999, Liverpool bought Sander Westerveld and Friedel was again the backup.  Finally, in November, 2000, Graeme Souness brought him Blackburn Rovers. Friedel's performance that season helped to bring Blackburn's back to the Premiership.  In 2001-2002, he finally secured a starting job at the Premiership and he was 30 years old. 
 


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