It has been a long time since Brad Friedel last played in Major League Soccer. The 43-year-old Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper was in the 1996 inaugural class of MLS with the Columbus Crew and played two seasons before making a permanent move to England, where played with Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa before landing with Spurs.
Even still, Friedel has kept his eyes on MLS and is well aware of what kind of team Tottenham Hotspur will be facing on Saturday in a friendly at CenturyLink Field.
“MLS has grown and made incredible strides along the way. Where it’s at right now is the healthiest it’s ever been,” Friedel said at a press conference on Friday. “This team and this stadium and this city that we’re in right now boasts the best of all the franchises in the MLS from what I’ve seen.”
Friedel said that he regularly watches MLS matches of teams from around the league and has been most impressed by what he has seen in Seattle. From the style of play to the record-breaking crowds in the stands, the national buzz that has been created around Sounders FC has reached across the Atlantic and is talked about around Europe.
“The atmosphere that they create here, the players that they attract here, the coach I know very well in Sigi (Schmid). He’s the one who started me along my path in my career,” said Friedel, who played for Schmid at UCLA from 1990-1992. “They are one of the teams that a lot of the other MLS teams can look up to and take a lot of education from what Seattle is doing. Now, there are some other clubs in MLS that are very good, but at the moment I think this one stands above them all.”
Seattle isn’t alone, as Friedel pointed out that players like Michael Bradley, Robbie Keane, David Villa and Jermaine Defoe have all come over close to their prime years have found a competitive league to play in.
That interest is escalating with each player that makes the jump to MLS, including Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey, who left Spurs last year to join Sounders FC.
“The league is doing incredibly well,” Friedel said. “The talk around the rest of the world and the interest that people have in the MLS is at the highest peak that it’s ever been.”
Interest was further heightened by the U.S. National Team’s run in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Tottenham Hotspur Manager Mauricio Pochettino holds Seattle in high regard as well.
While the pressure is on Spurs’ new leader to win and win early, he also knows that Sounders FC will be a tough test and that the team will take time to gel with a new coach and a new system.
“Tomorrow we expect a tough game. We need time to arrive, but we are ready to compete tomorrow and start to show our style and our philosophy,” Pochettino said. “We need to win and we need to create a good philosophy of exciting football, attacking football. We are at the start of preseason and we are starting to put that practice to the squad.”
Saturday’s friendly kicks off at 1 pm PT with live national coverage on ESPN2. Tickets are still available by visiting SoundersFC.com or by calling 1-877-MLS-GOAL.