Brad Friedel's criticism of Landon Donovan? It's all a misunderstanding, the American goalkeeper said Friday, after his remarks to BBC's World Service earlier this week caused a major stir in soccer circles on this side of the Atlantic.
“Not in a million years would I disparage an American player,” Friedel told Major League Soccer's website after comments he made, that Donovan “chose to take the easy road and stay in the States” rather than play in England and that “he gets a lot more notoriety because [soccer is] sponsorship-driven” in the U.S., went viral Thursday.
Friedel, 40, the former U.S. national team star who plays for Tottenham in London, reached out the MLS's website and to Donovan's representatives to apologize that what he said was twisted so badly.
His remarks came in response to a question about midfielder Clint Dempsey, who scored his 37th English Premier League goal Monday for Fulham, setting a new standard for Americans in the world's most respected league.
“My two comments were that Clint plays over here and a lot of it is sponsorship-driven [in the US], trying to create heroes over in the U.S.,” Friedel said. “I used Landon as an example. When I said 'easy road,' I’m not saying that everything Landon has done is easy because he stayed in the U.S. I’m not saying that at all. I could have used other players as an example. It’s just that Landon came up at the tip of my tongue because he’s one of the best U.S. players.
“At no time did I want to disparage or demean Landon Donovan in an way, shape or form. And if people read my quotes in a negative manner, I apologize for that. But at no time would I ever speak publicly in a negative way about another American player and mean it and actually go out and have a go at the guy. That’s not me. That’s not my personality.”
Donovan, 29, has faced criticism for spending the bulk of his career in MLS rather than testing himself in Europe's big leagues. He signed with Germany's Bayer Leverkusen at 16, had a miserable experience and moved to MLS, first on loan in 2001 to San Jose and then in a 2005 transfer to the Galaxy. He had a terrific 10 weeks on loan with EPL club Everton before the 2010 MLS campaign.
Friedel, who starred at UCLA and was part of U.S. World Cup teams in 1994, 1998 and 2002, spent 1996 and 1997 in MLS with Columbus, winning the league's Goalkeeper of the Year award in '97. He then went to England, where he has played for Liverpool, Blackburn and Aston Villa before moving to Tottenham last June. He said he still follows MLS closely.
“I think very, very highly of what MLS has accomplished since the inception,” he said. “I think the product that they continue to put on the field is getting better and better. ... I don’t want a reputation as bashing Landon Donovan and as an anti-MLS guy, because it couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Friedel said he was “simply trying to explain how hard it is for an American player to come out here and grind out a career, and I was trying to build up Clint Dempsey. I think the world of what Clint has accomplished over here. If I caused any stir to Landon Donovan and his fans out there, I apologize if my quotes seem like I was having a go at Landon.
“I have nothing against Landon. I think he is an outstanding player.”
WORTH NOTING: English midfielder Chris Birchall, who is out of contract, told England's Sky Sports News HD that he's not sure he'll return to the Galaxy. “I've loved my time at L.A. Galaxy,” he said. “L.A. Galaxy is a great club, but I will see what offers come from back home in England before making any decision on my future.” ... Donovan isn't expected to go out on loan this winter, and Everton, where he spent 10 weeks in 2010, isn't expecting him. “Everyone loved Landon,” Toffees captain Phil Neville told Sky Sports. “We enjoyed having him here, and he used Everton running up to the World Cup to stay fit. I think that was the only reason he came, or maybe he would have come the year after.” ... Donovan finished 2011 for the Galaxy with 20 goals: 12 in league play, three in the playoffs, one in the CONCACAF Champions League and one in friendlies. No. 2 for the Galaxy, all games, was Mike Magee with 15, and Adam Cristman also hit double-figures, with 11. David Beckham finished with 23 assists. ... A.J. DeLaGarza made the most appearances, with 57 in 70 games (that includes nine MLS Reserve League matches and nine during preseason), and fellow defender Todd Dunivant played in 56 games. Others playing in at least 50: Magee (52), Michael Stephens (52), Omar Gonzalez (51) and Juninho (51).
ELSEWHERE: In other news around MLS:
Canadian telecom companies Rogers and Bell Canada have teamed up to buy a majority share of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Toronto FC's parent company, for about $1.07 billion.
Toronto FC signed Bermudan winger Reggie Lambe, 20, who was released last spring by England's Ipswich Town.
Montreal signed veteran Canadian goalkeeper Greg Sutton, 34, who played for the club in the second division from 2001 through 2006. He was with New York last season.