Brad Friedel is missing the party, and not just tomorrow's World Cup qualifier in Carnival-celebrating Trinidad. Friedel announced yesterday that...

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MIAMI — Brad Friedel is missing the party, and not just tomorrow’s World Cup qualifier in Carnival-celebrating Trinidad.

Friedel announced yesterday that he is retiring from the U.S. men’s national team, leaving Kasey Keller of Lacey as the favorite to be in goal through the 2006 World Cup.

Keller, 35, is the all-time U.S. leader in shutouts and goalkeeper wins.

But Friedel beat out Keller for the starting job at the 2002 World Cup, where the United States advanced to the quarterfinals in its best showing since 1930.

Friedel played a major part, stopping penalty kicks against South Korea and Poland.

“Certainly his performance in the 2002 World Cup was a huge factor in our success,” said U.S. coach Bruce Arena, who twice tried to talk Friedel out of his decision to retire.


World Cup qualifying:

U.S. @ Trinidad and Tobago, 11:30 a.m., ESPN2

Friedel, 33, has played once for the United States since the World Cup, in an exhibition match at Poland last March 31. He starts for Blackburn of the English Premier League.

“I would like to spend my time away from my club team with my family,” Friedel said during a telephone conference call. “The second reason is based on prolonging my club career, because I have picked up, albeit slight, muscular injuries recently.

“When I was traveling around, I was feeling worn down. I haven’t felt worn down in quite some time, and I think a lot of that is attributed to the fact that I’m not flying everywhere and playing in high-level, competitive games.”

Friedel was voted the top goalkeeper in the Premier League by fellow players at the end of the 2002-2003 season.

Brad Friedel says he is leaving the U.S. team.

In Cleveland to announce the launch of his soccer academy, Friedel said he wants to extend his contract with Blackburn, which has about 18 months left. His success and that of the U.S. team at the 2002 World Cup made his decision easier.

“After the ’98 World Cup, I think the world saw us as again a third-world footballing nation,” he said. “After the 2002 World Cup, they obviously didn’t, and you can see all the talented players going to a lot of very, very good clubs once again.”

While Friedel was announcing his retirement, Keller was scrambling to meet up with the U.S. team.

Keller played for Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday in Germany’s top league, and his flight from Duesseldorf to Frankfurt yesterday morning was canceled. Keller flew to Zurich, Switzerland, where he caught a plane to Miami to meet up with the rest of the American team, which delayed its charter flight to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, to await his arrival.

Ten of the 23 U.S. players are based in Europe, and Arena will rely heavily on them tomorrow because a labor conflict caused the U.S. Soccer Federation to cancel a training camp in December and cut short another in January.

“The U.S.-based guys? They’ve got a way to go,” Arena said. “They’re obviously behind schedule.”

Tomorrow’s match is the first of 10 in the final round of qualifying in the North and Central American and Caribbean region.