MLS vs. Europe: Ex U.S. goalkeeper Brad Friedel says playing time matters
LONDON -- Former U.S. international Brad Friedel said that American players can develop just fine in Major League Soccer, though he understands the desire of U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann to have his players playing at the highest level.
Asked about the MLS versus Europe debate, the Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper said on Wednesday that the quality of play stateside has improved.
MLS' improvement has meant that American players who choose to go to Europe can be more selective, Friedel said, adding that the days when an American was better off leaving MLS for one of the lower leagues in Europe are gone, and that playing time remains paramount.
"Is it good for one of our American players to sign with Real Madrid? No, because they'll play zero," he said. "It's better that they stay in MLS and play 100 percent of the time. That's how you develop, that's how you get better. You just have to make sure that you never in your career, no matter where you play, become complacent.
"You have to always have to set goals. I think that's where Jurgen is coming with it. The mentality is yes, you've moved back for some big money, but keep putting it in because you're one of our best players," Friedel said as the U.S. team was preparing to train at Spurs' practice facility ahead of Friday's friendly vs. Colombia.
Klinsmann raised concerns last month that players such as Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey -- who returned to MLS with Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders, respectively, after lengthy spells in Europe -- would find it difficult to maintain their best form while playing in North America. MLS Commissioner Don Garber criticized Klinsmann shortly thereafter, stating that the U.S. manager's comments were "detrimental" to MLS.
Friedel has played the bulk of his career in England, but also spent parts of two seasons with the Columbus Crew back in the late 1990s. He is of the belief that Bradley and Dempsey will continue to develop as players.
"The great thing about MLS now is there are clubs where the players can develop and get better," he said. "The league has moved on so much since I was there in 1996-97. Seattle and -- at the beginning of the season -- Toronto were two of the clubs that were set up for success. So I think that would have to come down to the individual player and really bearing down and pushing yourself because the clubs are set up for players to succeed now."
Friedel said didn't have an issue with Klinsmann's comments.
"I think when Jurgen comes with some of his comments, it's about pushing the boat, trying to get the best out of his players, which is exactly what a national team manager -- or any coach -- should do," he said. "You try to get the best out of the players that you have, and Clint and Michael are two of the best players that the U.S. has when they're playing at the best of their ability."