Craig Friedman normally bleeds red, white and blue. Not so with the World Cup. When host Germany takes the field this morning against Argentina in a quarterfinal match, Friedman will be hooting and hollering for the Germans.
That's because Friedman is part of the German program.
Friedman is one of three trainers from Tempe-based Athletes' Performance who has been working with the German team. Athletes' Performance has been training world-class athletes since it opened in 1999.
With Friedman is company founder and president Mark Verstegen and trainer Shad Forsythe, who works at the company's Los Angeles facility.
“We feel as if we were part of this team," said Friedman, who has been in Germany since mid-May.
The relationship of the German team and Athletes' Performance has its roots in Los Angeles. German coach Juergen Klinsmann was a technical adviser for the Los Angeles Galaxy, a Major League Soccer team that happened to employ the services of Athletes' Performance.
“He really liked what we did with the team," Friedman said, “and wanted to recreate it for the German team."
Friedman said what really appealed to Klinsmann was Athletes' Performance's emphasis on speed.
Selling the hiring of an American company that focused on quick, short-burst training methods to German media and fans was a task for Klinsmann, who is coaching in his first World Cup.
“Initially, it didn't go over very well," Friedman said. “A lot of things Juergen did with his approach to the team were very revolutionary for German soccer. They usually play strong defense and want to counterattack. Juergen wants a very high pace, very high speed with lots of attacking. That's one of the reasons he wanted to bring us in.
“Initially, the German public didn't really understand that, so it was a big, big, big deal. Once they've seen his philosophy in action, giving the most exciting soccer in the tournament, that is a huge source of pride for them now."
The fans have let the American trio know how they feel.
“We watch the first half of games in the stands and then go down to the locker room," Friedman said. “As we head down, German fans have thanked us."
When asked to describe the atmosphere of the World Cup, Friedman did not hold back.
“It's like having a tournament of 64 Super Bowls over the course of a month," Friedman said.
“It's probably the most significant world event that brings countries together. It's unbelievable to see the different cultures of people walking down the street being friendly with each other."