On Jan. 22, 2011, Aston Villa secured an unlikely 1-0 win over Manchester City, which at the time was still coming to grips with its new vaults of cash. Villa was fighting to stave off relegation while City was attempting to push into position to challenge for the title.
The match was notable in particular because of the man between the posts for Aston Villa. Brad Friedel was just four months shy of his 40th birthday, and even then, four years ago, questions about his retirement swirled. But at least on this day, Friedel acrobatically silenced them. The Ohio native was clearly breaking down as a player, but the glint of his world class ability burned through the fog. At one point he turned away a tricky header from Vincent Kompany, as if to make a statement that his career was much farther from its conclusion than his hairline would lead you to believe.
But there was more to it than that, more boiling underneath the surface than anyone in the stands that day understood. Two days before the match, an English judge declared Friedel bankrupt. He owed more than $8 million on a failed academy venture in his home state called Premier Soccer Academies. Despite earning $40,000/week in wages, one bad venture forced arguably the finest American goalkeeper to ever live into the depths of financial reorganization.