CARSON, Calif. – New LA Galaxy signing Rob Friend is well aware that his new team has lacked a target presence for the past several seasons and now, he’s looking to fill that void.
The 33-year-old Canadian international officially joined the club earlier this month after spending the last 11 years playing in Europe, most recently with German side TSV 1860 Munich. During his time in Europe, Friend tallied 75 goals in nearly 260 league appearances with a total of eight clubs.
Friend’s strike rate in the old continent caught the eye of multiple MLS suitors over the past several years including Vancouver Whitecaps FC in 2013, but the 33-year-old admitted that the time was now for him to head to MLS.
“It was all about timing,” said Friend. “The timing was right because I didn’t want to come back when I was too old. I think that I have a lot to give and after 11 years in Europe, it was good timing on my part, and hopefully, I have enough in me to contribute.
“I’m a different type of player than the team has had in a while. I’m a big target man and they know what they’re getting. I’m not going to take the ball from [midfield] and dribble [past] 10 guys, but I play with my size,” Friend added. “I’m a box player and I think that the team has needed a player for Robbie and Landon to play off. I’ll do the dirty work and give more space for them.”
The additions of Friend and Brazilian target striker Samuel are seminal to a new philosophy from Bruce Arena’s team which has not had a reliable center forward since Edson Buddle in 2010. In particular, LA’s problems from 2013 seem tailor-made for a big body to fix.
Keane and Landon Donovan, while dominant as a strike force due to their movement on and off the ball, do not possess the size to test some of the league’s largest center backs. Add the fact that the heavily marked Omar Gonzalez was the team’s only true target on attacking set pieces a year ago, and LA’s new target men will have plenty of responsibility right out of the gate.
“[The Galaxy’s newest forward signings are] good. It’ll take the load off myself and Landon if he plays there,” said Keane. “The two lads are big strong guys and that’s only going to help us.”
And Friend believes that his experienced forged in the crucible of European Football for more than a decade will only aid the former UC Santa Barbara Gaucho as he looks to lock down a starting spot for LA.
“I had the opportunity to play in Europe right out of college. I think that I did it the hard way, I grinded from the leagues in Scandinavia to Holland to the Bundesliga,” Friend said. “It wasn’t easy, but I’m happy with the decision to play in Europe. It was a higher level and after 11 years in Europe, I’m proud of what I did, but it was the right time to come [to MLS].”
Friend may have spent the last 11 years in crisscrossing Europe, but the striker’s family have called Southern California home during the offseason. Now with a chance to play close to his home, he’s looking to make the most of his latest opportunity.
“My wife is from Manhattan Beach so this is home. We come here every winter and every offseason back here,” said Friend, whose two children are both American citizens. “It’s a great feeling, I’m waking up happy every day and it’s great to be here.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com