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One of Soccer's Top Goalkeepers Returns from Overdue Vacation - 2003-08-03

Brad Friedel of the United States is one of the top soccer goalkeepers in the world. He was in Washington recently as his professional club, the Blackburn Rovers of the English Premier League, played Major League Soccer's D.C. United in a friendly international match.

Friedel has been around. The veteran goalkeeper has guarded the net for Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew, the U.S. National Team, Turkey's Galatasaray, Denmark's Brondby, as well as Liverpool and now the Blackburn Rovers of England's Premier League. He played three years of college soccer at UCLA, where he won the 1993 Hermann Trophy as the nation's best player.

The Blackburn Rovers captured the 2002 League Cup and finished a respectable sixth in the league this season, which qualifies them to play in the UEFA Cup. The 1.93-meter-tall Friedel made 37 league appearances and had 15 shutouts in the 2003 season. He was also named to the English Premier League Team of the Year, the first American ever to achieve that honor. Friedel, who was born in the eastern state of Ohio and still lives there during the off-season, compared the MLS with playing in the Premier League.

"The English Premier League is a much harder, a much more difficult league to play in, there's no doubt about that. However, from what I see here, the league in America is getting better and better, and one day it will get up to be able to compare to those leagues, I'm sure," Friedel said.

Brad Friedel is also a member of the U.S. Men's National Team and is the second-most capped goalkeeper in the squad's history. His strong performance last year helped the United States advance to the quarterfinal round of the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.

"When you play in the World Cup it's completely different, you know. World Cups are more of a friendly atmosphere. You are playing for your country, it's a very, very big honor. But the feeling is completely different [than playing professionally in club soccer]," Friedel said.

The Blackburn Rovers' American goalkeeper said there is a special feeling playing in England's Premier League. "The Premier League, every single week for your fans, it's a religion for them. They live for the result on Saturday, and if the result goes good they have a good week and if the result goes bad they have a bad week. And all the stadiums are full. The noise is very, very loud and you get basically, World Cup atmospheres every weekend, so it's very, very nice," he said.

The 32-year-old Friedel has taken some time off recently, resting after the Premier League season rather than playing for the U.S. national soccer team at the Confederations Cup and Gold Cup tournaments. "The tournaments just come at very, very awkward times and sometimes your body just needs rest. I have not had a rest in 11 years," Friedel said.

And how does he feel after that long overdue vacation?

"I feel great," he responded. "I feel like I'm 19 again. I feel very, very fresh and it was absolutely the correct decision that I made."

Brad Friedel certainly looked fresh against D.C. United July 23 at RFK Stadium. He made five incredible saves in the first half, and the Rovers were leading 1-0 when he was substituted for in the 75th minute. D.C. United came back to tie the score at one-all against his replacement at the end of regulation, and won the match 6-5 on penalty kicks.