By Clemente Lisi – Harrison, NJ (Aug 2, 2012) US Soccer Players -- You can come home again. Just ask Brad Friedel and Michael Bradley, two Americans who play overseas who spent a part of their summer training and playing in the United States. For neutral fans choosing what to watch in another summer of exhibition soccer, it's always nice to have a direct connection. US soccer players as part of European clubs on tour certainly provides one. It also gives the players involved additional time in familiar territory.
“I’ve rarely had the chance to spend preseason in the States. I did it once when I was with Blackburn,” said Friedel. “It’s nice.”
For Friedel and Bradley, returning to the US to play was all about being match fit in time for the start of the season later this month. For fans, it was the chance to see a pair of Americans who have found playing time in two of the world’s best domestic leagues. Aside from both players having had short stints in Major League Soccer (Friedel with the Columbus Crew and Bradley with the MetroStars), the similarities, for the most part, end there.
Friedel is a veteran and nearly at the end of his career. The 41-year-old goalkeeper, who was capped 82 times by the National Team and was in net during their World Cup quarterfinal run in 2002, signed with Newcastle in 1994. Since then, he has played for seven clubs. Friedel has played for Tottenham since 2011 after having played in the Premiership since 1997 with Liverpool, Blackburn and Aston Villa. Last season, he was the oldest player in the Premier League along with holding the record for most games played. Stories out of England have his club interested in a new starting keeper, with Friedel expected to adjust to the role of backup.
Bradley, on the other hand, is in his prime. The 25-year-old midfielder is a key part of the National Team and is a World Cup veteran. After a standout year in Italy last season with Serie A side Chievo Verona, Bradley signed with AS Roma last month on a $4.6 million transfer fee. Roma's American ownership puts additional pressure on an American player, with Bradley looking to win over yet another fan base. This time, Roma support should be aware of his game. That's one of the benefits of transferring within a league rather than moving from one to another. Bradley has played in the US, Holland, Germany, England, and now Italy.
“I have always dreamed about playing for a big club. This is a club that can compete,” Bradley said. “My job now is trying to work my way into the starting lineup.”
Both Friedel and Bradley have that in common this season. Competition for the #1 slot at Spurs for Friedel, and Bradley looking to establish himself in an attack-oriented midfield. Both Tottenham and AS Roma have a lot of depth and both clubs expect to finish in a European slot..
“I think I can give a lot to this team,” said Bradley, who will play alongside such talents as World Cup champions Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi. “I’m willing to work hard and give it my all in training and in each game.”
Friedel also knows he has to compete for the starting job. Spurs have two other goalies in Carlo Cudicini and Heurelho Gomes who could also be starters on any other team along with those rumors of a new keeper transferring in this month. Asked about his future, however, Friedel said, “At my age, I take it one game at a time. We’ll see at the end of the season.”
Both players got a chance to play and visit New York before returning to Europe. On July 27th, AS Roma played its final preseason game in the US at Red Bull Arena, defeating El Salvador 2-1 with Bradley in the lineup.
“To be able to come and play in New Jersey, before family and friends, is always exciting for me,” said Bradley, a native of the Garden State.
Friedel, an Ohio native, was on the bench for Tottenham on Tuesday with his club beating the Red Bulls 2-1 at Red Bull Arena. Asked what he enjoyed most, Friedel said, “I’m enjoying the warm weather. The weather back in England isn’t always so sunny.”
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