In the 2017 season review, I reflected on how this offseason would be a defining moment for the club’s history and that this managerial appointment needed to be a strong one if the New England Revolution wanted to compete in a drastically changing MLS.
With the hiring of Brad Friedel as the permanent replacement for Jay Heaps, the Revolution have all but confirmed that they do not want to be a top team in the league going forward. These are strong words, but the writing is on the wall.
With expansion teams like Atlanta United and LAFC coming into the league with big name managers who have proven themselves either in the MLS or elsewhere, the Revolution needed to hire a manager who has valuable coaching experience. I recognize that Friedel is one of the most accomplished players in the history of U.S. soccer and is one of the most experienced players to ever play for the USMNT, but that does not mean he will succeed as a coach.
In the announcement of his hiring, the Krafts highlighted that they valued his experience as a player and a coach, but he barely has any experience as a coach. His time at the helm of the U.S. under 19 team is hardly enough to judge him on his coaching ability. His playing experience means he knows the game well and will certainly be able to run the locker well, but it does not guarantee success on the field.
Jay Heaps came to the Revolution as a successful MLS player, having played for the team for eight years prior to his hiring as manager. His experience did not make him a successful manager though, although he had one good season that was a shot of the post away from ending in an MLS Cup victory. It is almost impossible to compare Heaps and Friedel’s experiences together, but they are both in the same spot. A former player who is embarking in their first major managerial job. It didn’t pan out so well for Heaps however.
The Revolution and the Montreal Impact are two teams in similar places as of now. Both ended just outside of the playoffs, but have squads that are capable of competing and needed a fresh face. Both teams fired their managers. Unlike the Revolution, the Impact went out and hired Rémi Garde, former Aston Villa and Olympique Lyonnais manager. While he does not have an illustrious playing record, he has spent time with big clubs, as well as managing two teams in top leagues. While Garde’s time at Villa ended very poorly, he has the experience as a manager that should help him in the MLS.
Some have said this is a good move because they are giving Friedel experience as a manager, but this is not what the Revolution need at the moment. With the league dynamic changing the way that it is, this is no time for experiments. The Revolution need a coach who already has an established style and knows what he is doing. The Revolution need someone with coaching experience in either the MLS or another league similar to it. They needed a Tata Martino, but instead the hired another Jay Heaps.
Now trust me, I want this hiring to pan out. I would happily have everything I’ve just said be wrong in a year or two, but given the Revolution’s track record with coaches, it just doesn’t look likely. I think that Friedel has the potential to become a great manager, but I believe that the Revolution are not in the place to develop a manager at the moment. They need someone with experience to come in and whip the club into shape, and I just don’t know if Friedel is capable of that.