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Is Bob Bradley Really a “Eurosnob”?

ej copa 219x300 Is Bob Bradley Really a Eurosnob?

Much has been made on this site and others about Bob Bradley reluctance to call in MLS based players (except those he is 100% comfortable with) for qualifiers, while continuing to call in footballers from European Leagues that some US fans believe are of  lesser quality. For example, no objective analyst of the game would choose Danny Califf or Jay DeMerit over Jimmy Conrad, Chad Marshall or Michael Parkhurst (when he played in MLS) based on club form, nor would they pick  Eddie Johnson ahead of Kenny Cooper, nor would they choose Benny Feilhaber over Kyle Beckerman or Davy Arnaud based on the same criteria.

Bradley seems to be set on using January friendlies or lesser occasions, like perhaps this summer’s Gold Cup which doesn’t yield an automatic both to the next Confederations Cup as the opportunity to call in MLS based players. Coach Bradley’s selection for the El Salvador match last month had the fewest MLS based players for a US qualifier since MLS began play in 1996. During Bradley’s tenure the influence of MLS based players has continued to decline at a rapid rate.

During Bruce Arena’s tenure, when successful MLS based players moved abroad, the manager gave younger MLS based players who were on good form in the league a run out in friendlies and qualifiers. Bradley on the other hand seems to be set on a core of players who with only limited exceptions either play in Europe currently, or have played in Europe in the past.

As I discussed on the Mad about Futbol Podcast after the last set of World Cup Qualifiers, MLS now has an established reputation of not being a strong enough league to keep potential internationals sharp. The example used was Colombia, that in the late 1990s, multiple Colombian managers had no problem selecting players active in MLS for World Cup qualifiers and the Copa America.

It wasn’t just Carlos Valderrama either that was being considered. The likes of Oscar Parreja, Antony DeAvila, and Alex Comas continued to be considered for selection even after coming to MLS. But these days Juan Toja (when in MLS), Juan Pablo Angel and Freddy Montero did not get seriously considered while in MLS. In presence of several more knowledgeable analysts of Colombian Football on the show than myself, the consensus was that MLS is less reputable in South America than it was ten years ago.

Much of the reputation of MLS was based around the success of one club, DC United in international tournaments. Now, MLS looks weak when teams are forced to play top clubs from other nations in the Americas, and thus the league has seen a decline in its reputation for developing and honing potential internationals.

No question exists that MLS still has a healthy does of full internationals that play in CONCACAF. But for that matter, USL lost a bunch of players to World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF last year also, and USL is a second division. Generally lesser footballing nations will pick players who play their club football in MLS or USL for internationals, but more established football nations have chosen to skip entirely any MLS based player, with the very notable exception of David Beckham.

Whether MLS is a better league now than ten years ago is certainly debatable. But what is not debatable is that the perception of the league hasn’t grown abroad at the same rate as the perception of the quality of American footballers. European clubs are now more willing than ever to take chances on American kids coming right out of high school and college than ever before, yet continue to low ball transfer fees and the value of any MLS based player.

The truth is that several MLS based players are probably better than their European counterparts for the US team. I’d personally take Jimmy Conrad over Carlos Bocanegra, Danny Califf or Jay DeMerit. I believe Davy Arnaud, with one ten minute appearance for the Nats in his career is probably better than Benny Feilhaber and is close in a caliber when healthy to Clint Dempsey. Taylor Twellman is, when healthy hands down the best American forward that is available for National Team selection. Yet he has not been afforded the chances Eddie Johnson has gotten from Bradley since moving to England. Looking at USL, I’d be more comfortable with Bill Gaudette in goal than Luis Robles or Troy Perkins.

But Bradley perhaps like many international managers is concerned about several factors in MLS which make outstanding play in the league less conducive to key qualifiers away from home and matches against better opposition, than less stellar play in Europe. These factors include a lack of intimidating road venues, training routines that are not up to international standards, the lack of one touch, pass and go football in MLS which Bradley clearly wants the US to play, and the small number of truly meaningful games in MLS.

Bradley having managed in MLS himself for nine seasons (and two additional as an assistant) seems to have determined he’ll select Jay Demerit or Danny Califf who have to sharp every day in training because they may lose their job over Jimmy Conrad who not only would start for every MLS team, but would be a superstar regardless of who he plays for in the league. Chad Marshall has improved dramatically as a player yet still received far more looks from Bruce Arena when a young prospect then by Bradley after he’s been firmly established as a top class player.

Bradley also appears to believe also that attacking players from MLS besides the young Sacha Kljestan, the hard working Brian Ching and the indispensable Landon Donovan don’t fit his attacking philosophy. Truthfully, I completely understand this and see similarities in Bradley’s tactics to the Dutch “total football” which uses space and the use of players who can fill multiple roles on the pitch as a determination of whom and how to play.  Bradley needs a team that is ready to play at the highest international level, not a group of players whose league play has not kept them sharp enough to compete at the highest level.

This having been said, MLS based players are generally fresher and more motivated to perform when given the chance for the National Team. Many European based players have appeared gassed when called into National Team camp and have given half an effort when wearing the shirt. Clint Dempsey and DaMarcus Beasley looked completely unserviceable after a run of fixtures last season for Fulham and Rangers respectively. While MLS fans complain about fixture congestion and attribute the league’s colossal failures in CONCACAF to this, no MLS player has ever faced the calender DaMarcus Beasley faced late last season with Rangers.

The conclusion is that Bob Bradley may be a “eurosnob” but his player selection is not without reason. Coach Bradley, unlike Coach Arena seems to keep tabs on eligible US players regardless of where they travel, and has implemented a fairly logical standard for his side. You can agree or disagree with his player selections, but over the course of two plus years on the job his preferences are clear and players who want to play for the national team, a clear standard has been established.

Unlike under Arena, whose tactics changed constantly and who capped a remarkable number of  average MLS based players even leading up to World Cups, Bradley is more serious about simulating the World Cup in friendlies and key qualifiers and thus has not  changed his squad selection nearly as often as Arena did. Bradley’s tactics and selections can be debated, but their is little debate neccesary about what he wants to see from the US team.

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC. View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →
This entry was posted in Leagues: Major League Soccer, MLS, US National Team. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Is Bob Bradley Really a “Eurosnob”?

  1. Jason Davis says:

    I’m not convinced that Bradley’s leans in either directions. He’s certainly more guilty of overcommitment to certain players (regardless of where they play their club soccer) than he is over favoring European-based players over MLS-based ones. It’s “playing favorites” more than eurosnobbery.

    While the effect is the same, and that’s all the really matters, I think the approach is slightly different. The question is, if the USMNT coach has a foreigner, would have an even more pronounced bias or would he be better positioned to properly evaluate players?

  2. Lars says:

    You should write something on the Dallas Cup this year.

  3. dude says:

    Califf over Demerit? What the hell are you smoking? Every time Califf gets called in, he shows that he is not an international player for anybody. El Salvador showed it; I challenge you to name one positive Play he did the entire game. Demerit, on the other hand, is a very solid international who, quite frankly, is better against opposition than Carlos or Onyewu.

    Twellman? Did you watch the last Gold Cup? He got ample opportunity to start and show his stuff, and never did. He could benefit from a move over seas, but I just think he is a scrappy, talented Forward who can’t create for himself, not even level to Ching.

  4. JOHAS says:

    Actually he said Conrad over DeMerit and Califf which is actually more laughable.

    This is a joke piece, Kartik. Sorry I have previously loved your work, but it’s clear that you were taken to task by the uncritical MLS lovers and are now pandering.

    Bradley has an obligation to field a team that is going to do well in international competitions and as you used to point out, MLS guys even if better in quality are slower in reaction time and understanding hostile atmospheres than European or Mexican based players.

    You guys can bash the IFFHS, but it isn’t by accident that the data ranked MLS the 77th best league in the world behind every other league a US National Team pool player competes in.

    Kartik, you may have argued that MLS is somewhere in the 40th to 50th range as you did, but I argue strongly otherwise. Even when the climate in the US is more conducive to good football, MLS matches are typified by bad giveaways, a lack of imagination, poor technique, and almost constant fouling and hacking. It’s not good football and unless you are going to play “anti football,” which by the way some national teams do play, MLS based players are at a handicap.

    USL is even worse than MLS. It’s basically semi-professional football. MLS too only barely borders on being professional when guys at Wal Mart probably make as much in wages as many MLS players. Those teams that lost to the USL sides in the CONCACAF CL should be ashamed, losing to semi professionals. But anytime MLS or USL comes up against Mexico, the result is predictably obvious.

  5. In the Tank says:

    Arena took a bad team to World Cup 2006 by meddling with the squad and playing so many MLS guys who were competing at a low level in 2005 and early 2006. Twellman is horrible, and Conor Casey had several chances to make an impression and failed. The constant call ups of guys like Pat Noonan, Brian Carroll, Kyle Martino, Santino Quaranta, Jacob Peterson (need I go on), et al in the Arena era is now laughable when you look back on it. MLS may be slightly better in 2009 than it was in 2005, but we need to do MUCH better in the 2010 World Cup than we did in 2006.

    Kartik, I come to this site for objective analysis not pandering to MLS types with stupid statements like Jimmy Conrad and Taylor Twellman are so great. You more than anyone knows that most guys in MLS cannot hack it in Europe. For every Shalre Joseph their are like 10 guys who wouldn’t fit in abroad.

    MLS players live in a protected vacuum………………………… a bubble of sorts. The Soccer press in this country sucks up to the league treating it like a major league when in reality some semi pro teams of playground and street kids have more creativity and skill than many MLS players.

    That same press ignores USL completely like it doesn’t exist even though the league had two teams perform far better than the four MLS teams in the only competition outside the US where these teams can be judged on a world football stage. You however, I will admit are good about covering USL also.

    The article is complete hogwash. Total nonsense, and garbage. Of the 20 best American players, 19 of them play overseas. That’s a fact. Playing overseas makes them better for the international game. I agree with JOHAS entirely.

  6. Tony says:

    An interesting read. Bradley does obviously prefer Euro based players. But how can you blame him? Besides Donovan the best Americans are in Europe and its only the young guys and the washed up old guys like Berhalter that play in MLS.

  7. Roger Dunch says:

    One of the worst pieces ever from one of the best footy writers in the states.

    MLS HQ must have gotten on you for being honest and now you are back peddling claiming Bradley’s selection process is based on some sort of bias not on the objective standard you yourself several weeks ago stated. You said then that European based footballers are more battle tested, stronger on the ball and make quicker decisions and are generally more fit.

    Now all that doesn’t matter. Bradley is against MLS.

    BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH HUMBUG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Lars says:

    Did half you assclowns even bother reading the full article?

    The conclusion is filled with semi-praise for being a consistent coach with a goal of building a steady, capable roster.

    Only reinforcing my belief that half the people on the internet are unable or unwilling to use their eyes and brains and read.

  9. Juan says:

    Hey idiots, please learn how to read and chew gum at the same time.

    Katik was on my show and he said that because I told him that Fredy Montero, Jhon, Kennedy Hurtado, and Juan Pablo Ángel will never sniff the Colombian national team because of the simple fact that they play in MLS.

    Bob Bradley´s ultimate responsibility is not to help MLS grow, it´s to make the US as competitive a national team at the international level with the players he has at his disposal. In some cases those players are in Europe. He is ¨following¨the same train of thought that several coach in South America do by stacking their sides with more European players than domestic ones.

    Sometimes the best players are over there, sometimes they aren´t. Americans should thank their lucky stars to have a coach that knows that in order for the MNT to improve they had to go and get beat in places like Spain and France. He was the first American coach to realize that improvement is on the outside. Arena preferred the Mexican approach, close ranks, stay at home and play the Little Sisters of the Poor in Order to artificially boost FIFA ranks and have the American public believe they were good. Only to get bitch-slapped in the World Cup.

    If that is why Bradley is a eurosnob… than so be it.

    Kartik just was saying the truth. Show him some love because he is the one out there taking the bullets for the other American soccer journos who either have no clue about the game or are too scared of the myopic-ass Brit counterparts here and abroad that think they are the only ones that know about the game and use the Daily Mirror as their footballing bible.
    Kartik, by the way, Bill Gaudette (on one leg) is better than Robles and Perkins.

  10. Kartik says:

    My issue is that, as Jason Davis points out, he sticks to some players too long when a better option, in whatever league, is so clear that even uneducated fans wonder why he’s not getting called in (see Heath Pearce and EJ). I realize that he has shown some good attacking tactics against some high quality opponents when he first came in, but perhaps one or two losses against top nations has made him paranoid and now feels like defending is the only way out of the group stages in SA. He calls in the guys he is comfortable with, as you said, but the World Cup and CONCACAF qualifying are totally different jobs. Is Bob going to be able to shake off qualifying mentality and bring in players who are technically able to play in a World Cup? We’ll see at the Confed Cup.

  11. Garber football is garbage says:

    I agree with those here who have truthfully said that the US league is shit. It is NOT a major league, no matter what it’s officially called. I’ll just call it the Garber league or Mickey Mouse League. Or Garber Ball. Garball. Whichever.

    I gave that league a shot this season. No more. It’s as sloppy as a kids’ league. The nerve of them to call it “major league”. That’s false advertising right there. We should file a class-action against that league, we’d have a good case.

    And to think they get 4 spots, as many as Mexico, in the ConcaChampions. What a travesty!

  12. LI Matt says:

    Katik was on my show and he said that because I told him that Fredy Montero, Jhon, Kennedy Hurtado, and Juan Pablo Ángel will never sniff the Colombian national team because of the simple fact that they play in MLS.

    It’s pretty sad that Ángel (who has already doubled Pitufo de Avila’s scoring total with the Metros) can’t get a call-up because of the perception of the league. And it’s not like Colombia is scoring so much that they can be so cavalier about their forwards.

  13. Frank says:

    I’ve really tried to watch the American league, MLS this year but all the matches have been rubbish.

    Only the match between North Carolina and Minnesota this past weekend was any good. The Galaxy vs Chivas Regal match was awful as was Vancouver versus Charles Town and Houston versus New York.

    Just terrible stuff. If three out of four matches are completely unwatchable how do you forge a national side from this group?

    For the US to have any hope they must call in a European based side.

  14. Ferd says:

    Actually a good piece by Kartik.

    I think he’s dead wrong on Arnaud, and Conrad being national team caliber players, but correct in saying the poor quality of MLS means most guys in the league are just not able to compete at a high level.

    If we have the ambition of El Salvador perhaps we pick many MLS guys, but if we want to really make a splash in the world of football, we must depend on Europe and FMF based players. That is a fact. MLS simply doesn’t have the quality to get our national team beyond a mediocre status in world football.

  15. Kartik says:

    NO one’s asking for all MLS players. there’s only a few that should really be considered. Cooper, Ching, Donovan, Marshall, Gibbs (when healthy), Conrad, Bornstein are the only ones that are seriously considered in the pool. The fact is though, many of these players deserve to be backups at the very least, but they are superseded by players who are riding the bench in Europe.

  16. Chris Riordan says:

    GFIG :

    I don’t know about re – allocating the CCL slots. Mexico deserves the 4 and so does MLS, I believe. While, they did struggle (besides Houston) last year … MLS as a whole stands up to any other league in CONCACAF. Sure, the top two in Costa Rica, Honduras and maybe Panama can be real tough to beat. But not collectively, outside of those teams. MLS as a league, I believe, is stronger.

    Why change the slots … only one team that wasn’t from in a Mexican or US – based league made the quarterfinals – Marathon of Honduras. If the MLS had been healthy, I believe they would have done better (I’m not saying they would have won). So, who do you think is more deserving of those slots?

  17. kyle says:

    Clint Dempsey>>>>>>>Davy Arnaud. If thinking that players in Europe are better then players in MlS is being a Eurosnob then so be it. Why is it that criticizing MLS is unacceptable by the soccer fans in the US? How long can people continue to say its only x amount of years old?

  18. You should write something on the Dallas Cup this year.

    I wish I had seen the games. I am actually disturbed by the lack of coverage on Texas based soccer blogs who have the opportunity to see one of the best youth tournaments in the world but instead are covering every aspect of every boring MLS game. If I lived in Texas, I’d devote a whole week to the tournament. You probably have more potential world class players at the Dallas Cup than in all of MLS,USL and PDL combined.

    Kartik, you may have argued that MLS is somewhere in the 40th to 50th range as you did, but I argue strongly otherwise. Even when the climate in the US is more conducive to good football, MLS matches are typified by bad giveaways, a lack of imagination, poor technique, and almost constant fouling and hacking. It’s not good football and unless you are going to play “anti football,” which by the way some national teams do play, MLS based players are at a handicap.

    JOHAS did you not read the whole article as Lars said? I make those same arguments. I don’t think MLS is as low as 77th- I’ve said it’s like 40th or 50th. But what difference does it make? I was trying to explain why Bradley makes the player selections he did not anything else.

    I gave that league a shot this season. No more. It’s as sloppy as a kids’ league. The nerve of them to call it “major league”. That’s false advertising right there. We should file a class-action against that league, we’d have a good case.

    I’ve written numerous pieces saying essentially the same albeit in a less insulting way. However, MLS is cleverly packaged and marketed and has a lot of soccer media and footy fans in this country who are scared to criticize the league in the least bit out of fear that it will hurt the sport in this country.

    MLS is a marketing machine. The Football is no doubt subpar. I’m amazed how many MLS fans say that their league is comparable to the Mexican League without watching a single Mexican League game. They’re almost told to believe certain things by clever and well packaged marketing. Almost anyone who watches both leagues on a regular basis as I do realizes the gulf between the two leagues in immense.

    But MLS has done better than any other American sports league during the recession, re-upping and attracting new sponsors and increasing attendance. As I have said time and time again the football and the hubris from Garber really bother me. The league IMHO hasn’t really progressed on the field in over 10 years, but investors are now making money and the league is arguably the healthiest pro sports league on the planet, without the sort of debt or big contract commitments the EPL, NFL, etc have. So Garber keeps his job: he’s essentially sold a Chevy as a Cadillac to many in the US.

    If we have the ambition of El Salvador perhaps we pick many MLS guys, but if we want to really make a splash in the world of football, we must depend on Europe and FMF based players. That is a fact. MLS simply doesn’t have the quality to get our national team beyond a mediocre status in world football.

    I agree, but that doesn’t mean if you have guys like Kenny Cooper who could clearly play in Europe and who many European clubs wanted you just keep ignoring him. Their are MLS guys who are of a euro league caliber. Not many, but enough that the selection should be opened up. After all Michael Parkhurst couldn’t buy a call up for a year and a half (he had been capped in 2007 to prevent him from playing for Ireland) until he signed in Europe. Is that really fair?

  19. Angel says:

    I always said, that US have to start to build two National Team, One that have a mix of European Players with MLS and the other one with Current MLS players, espcially coming up with all this tournoment. Like Gold Cup, Confed Cup and Qualifying. Build a team strong team with Europe players and some MLS guy to play the Confederation Cup and against Honduras, Costa Rica & Mexico so we can win for the first time in the Azteca, For the Gold Cup build a Home team full of New Comers Mostly MLS player and some Young guys. Same team can play the second round of the Elimination Qualifying and probably by the time US already qualify. Play against El Salvador, T&T, Costa Rica.

  20. Lars says:

    Kartik, I agree that Garber has sold the league well and that the football is subpar, but there’s a general rule that will occur, it’s in sports economics as well as real economics. When you are generating more money, you will want to earn more money (see the mess we’re into now with the credit crisis as a perfect example of overambition), so you will improve the product on the field. MLS investors want to grow the game for the long term so they earn back more money each year, otherwise they’re losing money that could have been made in better investments elsewhere.

    What is the largest untapped body of soccer fans in America?

    The youth. This is why I expect the academy system will be changed for MLS to the Whitecaps Model (The Whitecaps Residency finished 2nd in the Dallas Cup, beating Eintracht Frankfurt on their way to the final where they lost to Sao Paulo FC. Man City finished 4th. TFC Academy never made the playoff but did beat AC Milan). You give the kids a dream of playing at home for a lot of money in a good league, and you will have a huge body of fans. This is how the Ottawa Senators grew their base in the NHL, in a market originally filled with Canadiens and Maple Laughs fans.

    What is the largest untapped body of soccer fans in America other than the youth?

    Eurosnobs. That’s why there is the Beckham rule.

  21. dhines says:

    i stopped reading at “Taylor Twellman is, when healthy hands down the best American forward that is available for National Team selection”. give me a freakin break, at the national level this guy couldn’t score in a brothel.

    get real . . .

  22. Mvanni says:

    Listen enough with bashing MLS. It’s not great, but having a league in America is a must. This is such a diverse nation and that diversity has led to this country having the best athletes in the world, hands down. MLS is about spreading the game here and making sure that the future Lebron Jameses, Reggie Bushes, and Kobe Bryants grow up playing soccer rather than football or basketball.

  23. DC09 says:

    we tried. we’ll do better

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  25. ??? says:

    I realize the 2worry;I am very m happy to hear that you got your Supra fixed; I remember reading about some of your problems5x !.

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