BOSTON, Mass. – After a tumultuous start to the season, which yielded the lowest points total in the Eastern Conference and an inconsistent team identity and style of play, the New England Revolution fired head coach Brad Friedel.
The club announced its decision Thursday after a 5-0 loss to the Chicago Fire, ending Friedel’s reign as its seventh full-time head coach. Assistant coach Mike Lapper will take over Friedel’s duties on an interim basis.
Additionally, the club announced that assistant coach Marcelo Neveleff will leave on June 3 to become the the technical director of the Dominican Republic U-23 national team.
Friedel, who became the Revs’ head coach in November 2017, once was regarded as one of the top active goalkeepers on the planet thanks to his performance in the 2002 FIFA World Cup with the United States men’s national team and his 20-year playing career that included stops at Aston Villa, Galatasaray, Liverpool and Tottenham.
But Friedel’s acumen as a player didn’t translate to leading the Revolution as a tactician and manager, his first major coaching assignment.
Friedel’s coaching record in New England was 12-21-13. The team missed the playoffs last season and is on pace to do so again — for the fourth consecutive season — and is currently at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
The Revolution have also won only four home matches since last July, a stark departure from the “Fortress Foxborough” days under former head coach Jay Heaps, who boasted one of the best home records in MLS.
But the Friedel era started with some promise. The team was in playoff position for the first half of last season and appeared to be responding well to Friedel’s high press style of play. Newcomers such as Cristian Penilla and Luis Caicedo played a central role in that early success.
Management remained confident in Friedel despite the team winning just two road games last season and failing to reach the playoffs.
The club then bankrolled a preseason trip to Spain and the $2 million transfer of Spanish midfielder Carles Gil, the club’s most expensive acquisition to date, and was also reportedly set to invest a $14 million package into Standard Liege winger Paul-José M’Poku before the player turned down a move to New England at the May 7 transfer deadline.
“This is far more our squad this year than it was last year,” Friedel said in February while in Spain. “I think being abroad and being able to bond as a team is a very important aspect.”
The club went 1-2-1 in Spain against a quartet of international teams, then went 1-3-0 in the second leg of preseason in Florida, including a 3-1 loss to second-tier USL Championship side Louisville City and a 6-2 loss to a youthful and depleted Orlando City SC team.
With New England’s struggles continuing into the regular season, Friedel’s job seemed at risk by April. He continued to preach patience, even teasing the prospect of an incoming signing widely believed to have been M’Poku, who wanted to live in the United States and knew Friedel for years. But the club signed no other players by the transfer deadline.
It is unclear the timetable or direction of the search for the Revolution’s next head coach. General manager Mike Burns largely led the searches for Friedel and Heaps, both hired despite not having previous head coaching experience.
At the time of Friedel’s hire, Burns faced criticism for again choosing a candidate with limited experience. Some even speculated he had chosen a friend in Friedel, with whom he was a teammate on the U.S. men’s national team for the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
“There’s been some criticism out there that I’ve hired a friend,” Burns said at Friedel’s introductory press conference on Nov. 13, 2017. “I want to address this head on. He, in my opinion, is the best person for the job bar none, and of anyone I’ve spoken with. . . . He’s the right guy for the job, on the field, off the field.
“And I know these are just words right now and our actions and our results and all of that will end up dictating everything, but I feel extremely fortunate that Brad is on board.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.