Friedel sharp for Blackburn in midweek English first-division action.By Robert Wagman
(Wednesday February 21, 2001) -- England’s first division played an unusual midweek slate of matches on tonight and last night, and it gave a number of Americans the opportunity to see action before leaving to join the United States national team for next Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Mexico.
American keeper Brad Friedel looked ready for Mexico by grabbing his sixth shutout in eight outings as Blackburn Rovers eased by Watford 1-0 last night. Blackburn probably should have won in a rout with Watford playing the entire second half two players down, but Friedel was called upon to make four spectacular saves.
Watford’s leading scorer Tommy Mooney sent a powerful header for the corner, but Friedel tipped it wide. Then Tommy Smith broke through the Rovers’ defense, forcing Friedel to a make full-length save. After Rovers finally went ahead 1-0 in the 70th minute, Watford almost drew level when Mooney hit a curling free kick which Friedel saw late, but parried away. Finally, he made a sterling reaction save to deny Allan Nielsen.
Friedel will be in goal Friday night against Bolton Wanderers before heading to Columbus, Ohio.
Tonight, U.S. midfielder Ben Olsen went the full 90 minutes, but Nottingham Forest came up short 1-0 loss to Sheffield Wednesday in the first division. In an even defensive match, Olsen was one of the better players for either side. He had a couple of the few quality chances Forest generated.
Gregg Berhalter’s first start for Crystal Palace yesterday began on a bad note in a 1-0 loss at Barnsley. The American defender was called for blocking out Barnsley’s newly-signed striker Isaiah Rankin in the box on a questionable call that nonetheless resulted in a penalty kick. Barnsley captain Steve Chettle let Berhalter off the hook by pushing his kick wide right.
Berhalter performed respectably before being replaced at half, but was in long enough to witness Barnsley’s goal in the 36th minute.
U.S. striker Brian McBride went the whole way for Preston North End came out on the short side of a 2-0 score at the hands of Worthington Cup finalist Birmingham City. City went ahead 1-0 in the 11th minute. McBride almost tied things in the 30th minute when his sharply struck header from seven yards out seemed like a sure goal before Birmingham City goalkeeper Ian Bennett tipped it just wide with a full-out lunge.
McBride played well, but Preston’s scoring difficulties continued.
American goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann was on the bench and midfielder Eddie Lewis in street clothes when first-place Fulham was upset by Burnley 2-1.
Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at email@example.com.