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The Case for Bob Bradley

bradley533 300x233 The Case for Bob Bradley

The Fire Bob Bradley movement has returned front and center. This movement’s proponents continue to advocate the termination of the current US coach while offering little advice in the way of a realistic replacement. Many proponents of this movement have also vastly over rated the talent level in the current US Men’s National Team Player pool, believing that the failures that can be rightfully blamed on a poor youth system, college soccer and a domestic league that doesn’t focus on player development as it once did are all down to a single man.

In the peculiar culture of American sports, insular to its core, it is impossible to accept anything other than poor coaching and external factors as the reason why our athletes cannot excel. American Footballers must be at a high level because after all we’ve now qualified for six consecutive world cups (well effectively qualified, at least) and the sport is growing by leaps and bounds in the country.

After years of expensive reports and development academies maintained and funded by US Soccer, it must be the fault of Bob Bradley and his staff that the United States doesn’t play football like Brazil or Germany in the eyes of some. It’s not in the American ethos to admit we cannot accomplish something, so scapegoat those in perceived positions of authority becomes engrained in our culture.

Bob Bradley’s American side is dependent on a few core players. One, Jozy Altidore has been with four teams in fifteen months, and currently features for Hull City, a favorite for Premier League relegation. Another, Landon Donovan, though fabulous for the US, is a player that is perceived to have failed three times in Europe, and currently plays in MLS. Yet another, Oguchi Onyewu failed miserably at a loan spell in the Premier League and now struggles for playing time in Serie A.

Michael Bradley has fallen out of favor at Gladbach, while Benny Feilhaber, an American regular failed to make strong impression in the Bundesliga or Premier League, and now plays in Denmark.

While Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard have solidified their spots on sides that qualify for the UEFA Cup/Europa League, the American talent pool to an objective outsider would look weak and thin.

Personally, I am proud of the efforts many of our Americans have made abroad. But to confuse the accomplishments of the current crop of American field players, with John Harkes who scored a goal in the League Cup final at Wembley, Alexi Lalas who was ranked among the top defenders in Serie A by the hyper critical Italian press and Claudio Reyna, whose nickname “Captain America,” was a sign of the respect he earned leading multiple clubs in different countries into European competition, is totally off base.

Readers of this site saw commentary from readers this past week that questioned how anyone could perceive Serbia as a superior team to the US.

The current Serbia selection features two players on the books of Manchester United, and one each on Chelsea, CSKA Moscow, Sporting, Stuttgart, Dinimo Kiev, Sevilla, Inter and Standard Liege. That’s ten players who began the 2009-10 season in the UEFA Champions League play-in stages (nine in the group stages), and several more are on sides that qualified for the play in stages of the Europa League.

Based on the club selection, the talent pool is not even remotely comparable. Yet, in both the FIFA and ELO rankings, the USA is placed just above Serbia. Comparing the talent level at the top of both player pools gives a strong indication that Bob Bradley is in fact doing about as well as can be REASONABLY expected with a group of players who fit the label journeyman, like a glove.

The fact that the US is close to qualifying for the World Cup owes itself to two things: the softness of CONCACAF, and the work of Bob Bradley.

Has it ever occurred to those advocating Bradley’s termination, that our program was in such disarray and disrepute after the 2006 World Cup, that we could not hire a coach for five months and went nearly seven months without playing a match? Bradley’s ability to quickly stabilize the program and win the 2007 Gold Cup (albeit with some assistance from CONCACAF’s poor referee pool) was truly remarkable given the circumstances.

Bradley is clearly not a tactical genius by any stretch of the imagination. He makes the same mistakes over and over again and is sometime frustratingly stubborn with his player selection and his media interaction. Certain issues stand out like the unwillingness to feature Pachuca’s Jose Francisco Torres regularly.

But otherwise, the player selection is painfully obvious, not because Bradley’s hasn’t a clue, but simply because the US doesn’t have the depth or quality in its player pool most of us would like to believe we do have.

Is Bob Bradley the ideal international manager? Obviously not, but is he the most likely to have success with this US team? Quite possibly, and that is why an early termination would be such a bad idea.

The US does need to eventually replace Bradley with a capable international manager. But at the same time, the USSF must overhaul its structure and allow a new manager free reign to fix the many aspects of our system that are broken.

Given this reality, the USSF and American fans would be wise to give Bradley unconditional support until South Africa 2010. After that tournament, however, all bets are off. If the US performs as I suspect they will, a new coach will be hired and the USSF will be forced to make substantial changes to its structure.

This entry was posted in Bob Bradley, Leagues: Major League Soccer. Bookmark the permalink.

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 →

32 Responses to The Case for Bob Bradley

  1. Daniel Feuerstein says:

    Agreed Kartik. Once again the problems are within US Soccer, not Bradley. He is doing the best that he can with what he has got. But let me say this as well. 2006 was more a player revolt on Arena than it was talent. DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey and a couple of others didn’t like the gamesmanship Bruce was playing with the opposition & these are the ones who went against him in the press before & after the loss to the Czech Republic.

    But now it looks like it is player pool related.

  2. perico gallo y chiva says:

    I’m really beginning to loathe international soccer and the whole World Cup process. Club ball is so much better. Why does it even make sense for a country of 300 odd million to field a team against Caribbean islands? What kind of bizarre competition is that, anyhow?

    And there’s the fact that US Soccer is just like the post office. When they totally fail all you can do is write angry comments on the Internet. Did anyone else read that Sunil Gulati quote last summer about how he knows “people care” because he gets flamed when the national team plays like total crap? I think Jamie Trecker is wrong when he says US Soccer is “like the Nixon White House.” At least we could vote against Nixon. US Soccer, on the other hand, is a monopolistic and bureaucratic monster that we can’t do anything about.

    I’m not saying it’s perfect, but at least with European club soccer your team has to stay somewhat competitive or else they’ll be relegated, meaning they basically go out of business. How to bring that kind of ruthless free market performance incentive to the national team is what I’m wondering. Because right now the national team sucks, while US Soccer remains rich, complacent, arrogant, and stupid.

  3. robert s says:

    I agree with you 100% on your observations Katik. Making change for the sake of making change will not fix anything. If anything it will disrupt what little chemitry is there and set this team back.
    I know this article is about the U.S. National teams and not the other teams in CONCACAF but before anyone trys to make comparisons lets look at the other teams. In Mexcio’s case there is a solid player base in place who had no identity. They were playing beneath their ability so a change was in order. If any team in CONCACAF should make a change it would be Costa Rica. All the other teams in CONCACAF are playing at their level.

  4. The Ghost of Josimar says:

    Kartik, you are setting up and knocking down a straw man.

    Serious observers know our player pool is limited. It is no great mystery that Serbia has better players than the USA. If you want to argue with people who suggest otherwise, fine — but it is hardly worth your energy.

    As for our success being down to the weakness of our opponents and Bob Bradley’s good work — only the former is true.

    Questions:

    1. Is Carlos Bocanegra really the second best center back we’ve got? Corollary: Why did it take an injury to Bocanegra for Demerit to get his chance?

    2. When was it apparent to sensible observers that Davies needed to get serious minutes? Why did it take a summer-time injury to Brian Ching for Davies to get his chance? Absent this injury, you really think Davies would have been in the first 11 at Azteca?

    3. Were you laughing or crying this summer when Sasha Kljestan got game after game and Jose Francisco Torres sat on the bench?

    4. Should Jonathan Bornstein *ever* be in the starting line-up? Do you not scratch your head and think, “My, Jonathan Spector was starting at left back for West Ham last Saturday.”

    5. Why did it take injuries to Frankie H. and Carlos Bocanegra for Spector to get into the side semi-permanently? What was Bob Bradley thinking sitting Spector at the Azteca?

    6. Bob Bradley has done a remarkable job exploiting the talent of Jose Francisco Torres, no? What does this tell you about how he makes the most of what he has got?

    7. Tell us, are you relishing the anticipation as we imagine what Bob Bradley will do once Jermaine Jones becomes available? Or are you deeply concerned that he will get the team selection wrong?

    8. Your point on realism is well-taken. There are few ready replacements for Bradley now. But that is because Sunil Gulati lives in a bubble, sitting on his hands when managers like Dick Advocaat were available. I am amused that you are now counseling us to give “unconditional support” to Bob Bradley. We all know Sunil is sticking with Bradley. But don’t you think supporters and journalists have to point out Bradley’s short-comings and do whatever possible to take Sunil out of his splendid isolation from negative feedback?

    Side comment: Daniel, with due respect, you are wrong. Bob Bradley is not “doing the best he can with what he has got” except in the most trivial sense.

    It is trivially true to observe that any second rate manager given to excessive conservatism and wrong-headed favoritism does “the best he can” given his intellectual limitations.

    If that is what you mean, then the rejoinder is simple: We should have a better manager who can do more with our players.

    • park bolivar says:

      Fantastic point with regard to the fact that some players were never allowed to emerge due to Bradley’s preferences (I mean, seriously, ‘dolo over Spector?).

      As for Kartik setting up and knocking down a straw man, I’m more or less inclined to agree, the number of players operating at higher international levels is superior to any time prior to this in US football history, and, without a doubt, MLS has been a decent training ground for at least half of this squad.

      But, as you and others have alluded to, half of game-day coaching is squad selection, and half is tactics. To continually see cats like Ching, Casey, and (until recently) Beasley get callups is shameful. Mind you I like Ching and Casey immensely in MLS, but they’re not of that caliber to tackle heavier CONCACAF sides. I’m willing to concede that giving lots of players caps is a decent way to evaluate talent, but many pressing questions remain.

  5. francesco says:

    BB has done a descent job considering how bad the USSF really is, but perhaps the thing most bothersome is the sense of entitlement he gives to his players. Baring an injury, we will only see his core of guys picked constantly (injuries like davies coming in for ching, demerit for bocanegra, spector for cherundolo). To be successful there must be competition at every spot, meaning not even landon donovan should be assured his spot. and if you take a step back from this weakness you realize BB doesn’t play his players where they will be successful in the first place (dempsey comes to mind and the beasley experiment). BB is setting himself up for failure but not making his players earn their spots and imagine the huevos it would take for someone like dunga to tell ronaldinho he’s not getting the call.

    BB has to go but realistically we’ll have to wait till post WC.

  6. The Dude Abides says:

    I don’t think Krishnaiyer really wants to defend Bradley (who he was laying into as recently as last week) as much as he wants to glory in the supposed shortcomings of the game in the United States, which he feels isn’t up the the amazing standards of world powers Mexico and Costa Rica.

    Well in my opinion he should just move to Honduras because he loves their game soooo much. And since he worships the ground Javier Aguirre walks on, why doesn’t Kartik just get it over with and marry Mexico’s coach? Giovani dos Santos and Carlos Vela can be bridesmaids at the wedding! GET R DONE!

    • eplnfl says:

      Hey Dude:

      Disagree with you but have to admit it was clever.

      Kartik:

      I think we have hit on a common thread, Bradley is doing good maybe not very good, but good given what the USSF has been up to and limitations imposed by the player pool.

      Just want to point out how much doom and gloom Bruce Arena had about the future when he left the job . Also for those who want to bring in a big name from whatever country will any of those guys get off the beach and spend time with the development squads and U-20 teams like Bradley does when he has the chance.

      Dude: Do you think I can at least be an usher?

      • Kartik says:

        Basically Arena said when he left the job that this was the best run the US was going to see in years and hard times were ahead for the USMNT. And of course he was right. When you lose O’Brien, Reyna, Pope, and McBride one summer and three years later still haven’t found the players to replace them at the same level, you realize Bruce was not being bitter but knew his talent pool.

        Additionally, We still don’t have the sort of wide players we did ten years ago.

  7. Josiah of Footy Fame says:

    This column is long overdue from you Kartik.

    I was really appauled that some one of your historical knowledge of the game kept attacking Bradley, when you should know better. You rightfully, and correctly state that this current group of US players do not have the pedigree nor accomplishments at the club level of the guys like Harkes, Lalas, and Reyna. You also forgot to mention O’Brien who was at Ajax in a period when they were still very competitive in the Champions League, and Kirovski who played in the Champions League semifinals with Dortmund and again in the knock out stages with Sporting.

    If Kirovski was ten years younger, he’d be a lock for this team because he has a skill on the ball and touch that the entrie current midfield lacks.

    The truth hurts and so many of our fans do not want to admit it. We are in between two great generations of players. The Reyna/O’Brien/Pope/MCBride generation and the Altidore/Renken/Gyau/ Wilmer Cabrera influenced generation.

    What Bradley has been given is the great generation on its last legs like Hejduk, the up and coming studs at a young age like Altidore and a bunch of left overs that may look good to Americans fans, but actaully represent a huge dip in talent that will be remedied.

    I wondered truthfully where your head was. You make sense when talking about our players limitations, yet you had fallen into the same trap as so many other bloggers and fans expecting miracles out of a group that simply cannot deliever that.

    I guess I can start listening to the podcast again now. I had stopped listening, incidently.

    • Kartik says:

      The Johan Kirvoski point is well taken. I believe he is still the only American to play in a Champions League Final, and that was over a decade ago!

      Now both Beasley, and John O’Brien started deep in the knock out stages but never played in a final.

      The people who are lauding Gooch for getting to Serie A (something I have stated that I am very happy about) forget that Lalas was not just on a Serie A team, but was considered one of the top central defenders in the league which was at the time considered the world’s best.

      We don’t have anyone playing close to that level today. He, Harkes and Tab Ramos choose to sign with MLS because they wanted to make our new domestic league work and felt they had an obligation to do so. In Harkes autobiography he talks about Tab Ramos calling him and telling him they had an obligation to make the new league prosper.

      Unlike today’s Americans who tend to come home to MLS as failures, that generation came home as conquering heroes, regulars in Europe, who were well regarded by local press and supporters.

      For all of Landon Donovan’s greatness in MLS and with the USMNT he respectfully isn’t anywhere near that level in the minds of international fans.

      Dempsey is getting there with the Fulham fans, but certainly the bar has been set high at the club by McBride.

      Do you know how much Rangers fans, in an era when the SPL was much better than today loved Claudio Reyna. Heck, he even wore the armband in the Champions League.

      Thank you for patronization of the podccast again, and I am sorry we lost you in the first place.

  8. Tim says:

    Kartik you do realize that you are comparing the current core players with the career accomplishments of retired players. Many of the players you say lack the quality of their predecessors are just beginning their careers. What makes you think that Feilhaber, Davies, Altidore, and Bradley won’t improve anymore? Your impatience with the current crop of players is ridiculous. I wonder what you were saying in ’02 when the US was struggling to even qualify in the “soft” region that is CONCACAF. Oh wait didn’t you just say that CONCACAF was improving a lot. I guess it isn’t. Seriously, what did USSF and Jamie Trecker do to piss you guys off so dearly? And what exactly makes you guys experts on youth development in this country. I would understand if you said this after the US fails to do well in both the U-17s and U-20s. The same goes with the senior team members. Let’s see if they truly have quality come World Cup time rather than just write them off now.

    • mdb says:

      Great point. As the Ghost suggests above, this is mostly an attempt to create straw men to knock down (and I expect link/comment bait), but his attempt to compare the two generations of USMNT players demonstrates that he views the past through incredibly rose colored glasses. Reyna is still probably the US’s greatest field player, but even he struggled to find playing time in his stint in Germany. He also played for just 2 seasons for Rangers before being transferred, and then starting several seasons of injury shortened seasons before retirement. Harkes started out with Sheffield Wednesday before they were promoted to the Premiership. And Lalas spent a mere 2 seasons at Padova, the bottom dwellers of Serie A during both seasons. Reyna, Lalas, Harkes, McBride, etc. were all spectacular players, but their careers started much like those of the current crop.

      In the end, the only thing Kartik actually attempts to prove is that Bob Bradley is not the MAIN problem with the USMNT. I don’t think he does a good job of proving the point, but it’s a point I agree with nonetheless. Unfortunately, he comes up with NO arguments for Bradley other than “it’s not totally his fault” and “we don’t have any feasible options this late in the game.”

  9. Jim says:

    The player pool isnt good??????????//

    The player pool is better thatn its ever been.

    1. OUr two strikers r on form and playing regularly
    2. Donovan is in the form of his life.
    3. Dempsey, Bradley and soon to be Jermaine Jones are all regular starters for their clubs.
    4. Onyewu plays for one of the most successful clubs in europe
    5. Demerit is a solid central defender who is the captain of Watford
    6. Spector is working his way into West ham’s side and has been playing recently
    7. Castillo will soon work his way into the squad
    8. feilhaber has finally found regular playing time and can be an impact sub late in games

    The basis for ur arguement is false. Ur either way over hyping the teams of the past or extremely over looking club form for most of these players. Their not performing for the Nat team but at club level their all playing well. Im tired of hearing u down play the american players and not looking at the facts

    • LI Matt says:

      OUr two strikers r on form and playing regularly

      This is true if you’re referring to Brian Ching playing regularly for Houston. Altidore has played two league games in the last year, and I don’t believe he’s played 90 minutes in a league game since he left New York.

      Onyewu plays for one of the most successful clubs in europe

      Gooch played a total of zero minutes in Milan’s first three league games.

      Demerit is a solid central defender who is the captain of Watford

      With all due respect, Watford is a second-division club. DeMerit doesn’t really help your argument.

      Castillo will soon work his way into the squad

      You’re so sure about that?

    • TTY says:

      No offense, Jim but how long have you been watching the US?

      1- Davies plays, Altidore does not. He’s not going play much either, with Hull not only signing two more strikers but still opting for returning players to start.

      2-And he’s in MLS. Case closed. The guys Kartik was referring to were excelling in Europe.

      3-Bradley has not played in the last three Gladbach matches. J. Jones may or may not play regularly for the US and is coming off a bad injury.

      4-Onyewu is on the squad, but has yet to play a minute in a real match

      5- Watford is a second division club, and DeMerit has recieved no interest from Prem clubs.

      6- True

      7- False. Castillo playing would be further proof of the US’ lack of talent. The guy gets beat all the time in Mexico and that is why he has been on two clubs in three years.

      8- In Norway. He flamed out in both England and Germany.

      Again, as I say before I think Bradley should be canned and that Kartik is wrong to support him. But his argument about the player pool is not only compelling, but a dose of reality some of you people need to come down from it.

  10. Jim says:

    you r a joke the players in ’98 were playing in college teams and their were almost no european players. Now most of them are in europe and playing well.

    if ur writing these pointless articles over and over again just to get plp riled up, ur doing a good job

    • LI Matt says:

      It’s amazing how people embarrass themselves on blogs like this.

      Here’s the 1998 US World Cup squad:

      Brad Friedel, Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Pope, Mike Burns, Thomas Dooley, David Regis, Roy Wegerle, Ernie Stewart, Joe-Max Moore, Tab Ramos, Eric Wynalda, Jeff Agoos, Cobi Jones, Preki, Chad Deering, Juergen Sommer, Marcelo Balboa, Kasey Keller, Brian Maisonneuve, Brian McBride, Claudio Reyna, Alexi Lalas.

      How many college players on that list? Try “none”. Everyone was either in Europe or in MLS (a couple, like Wynalda and Lalas, had come back from Europe to play in MLS).

  11. Neal Capuchino says:

    The EPL has the best league in the world, yet England hasn’t won a World Cup since 66, than Spains La Liga, yet Spains hasn’t won a World Cup in a longtime, yet Brazil, and France have respective leagues, not like EPL, but they have more World Cup wins than anyone. The MLS needs an overhaul, the USSF needs an overhaul and we need a new manager, he can make a difference. We have phenomenal talent, we have great players that play in our rec leagues to the MLS, we just need a manager who can recognize this talent to put together to make a fantastic run in Africa. The USA has the potential to go very far in this tournament, we just need to have the right soccer minds to lead us there.

  12. Chris Webb says:

    Just for arguments sake, Jovan Kirovski was in a suit and tie for the Champions League final. He did not play in the final. If I recall correctly, he scored in one of Dortmund’s remaining group stage matches (after Dortmund had already qualified to the knockout stages), but didn’t play again after that.

    No US player has progressed further than Beasley in Champions League play. Beasley played in both legs of the semi-finals while at PSV.

    • Thanks for the correction Chris. I wasn’t actually sure when I replied to that post above about it. Johnny O played a lot of CL but Ajax usually would lose in the round of 16 or QF.

      Streangely another US player who has started a few CL matches was Robbie Russell when he was at Rosenborg. I bet people don’t recall that one for the most part!

      Jovan did play in a CL match for sure at Sporting. I remmeber the game well, but recall thinking (this guys is our great hope, he doesn’t look like it.)

      This having been said, Kirovski never made a World Cup squad for the US, so the fact that we had a player playing at such big clubs that wasn’t an automatic selection, debunks the posture of some fans that we had no depth in the past. In fact, the one major tourney had did play a role in, the 1999 Confed Cup, he was an injury replacement for Reyna.

  13. peter osgood says:

    I think Neal makes a great point, and one that Kartik makes often about the PDL, that more and more talented players who have chosen not to sign with MLS or have been overlooked by MLS and the US Soccer system have been signed onto European clubs.

    I am surprised that no one yet has mentioned Orozco, who is playing excellent football for San Luis, as a starting LB, scored a good goal recently. He was having a great olympics until an unfortunate red card.

    Similarly, Kartik knows as do others who do their homework, that Bradley blames Torres for the first two goals at Costa Rica. And does so with great irritation. With Michael going through a tough period, no doubt do to the relentless nature with which he plays, covers too much ground at times and has had little time to rest for several years, has lost the plot and may well find it hard to get minutes in Germany ahead of Honduras next month.

    Torres as everyone who posts here and who knows the US pool, has the exact qualities on the ball that this team needs. He is not exactly John O’brien, but his game has great similarities, and unlike O’brien who got stuck at LB at Ajax against his will, Torres gets his minutes at Pachuca in midfield.

    It’s not a big leap to think that Torres is getting held back so as not to challenge Michael, especially when Edu is healthy, who one would hope lands the job of protecting the back four. His form down the stretch for Rangers last season was magnificent, and perhaps of the quality of the Reyna/McBride generation we are lamenting the loss of.

    With Edu in place, and Donovan, Dempsey, Davies and Altidore clearly the pick of the attacking players, that leaves one midfield position left. Granted if Clark gets to finally go to Livorno and plays out the second half of the season in form, then he could challenge Edu for the holding role, but I personally don’t think he has the positional sense or the qualities that Edu has shown in Scotland.

    And then Orozco, I don’t get it. Left back is clearly a daunting prospect at this moment, and Castillo when playing the best football of his career at Santos two years ago was an old wing back, or advanced left sided midfielder similar to how Petrov was used by Sven to great affect at City two seasons ago. The boy knows how to play on the touchline, affording his team real width, which is something than no others in the US pool have now. Dempsey and Donovan are at their best when they pinch inside, which leaves often the US shape dangersouly narrow and makes it easier for the opposition to win balls and maintain posession.

    So Bradley’s choices and tactics are, and should be very much in the frame. He should be criticized when his choices are wrong, and praised when they are right.

    It is fair to argue that injuries to pet players at the Confederations Cup gave deserving players a chance to show their worth. And when he had the opportunity to make the same correct choices in the most important match in qualifying he chose poorly, dooming the side to a defeat.

    Trekker has made the point on both Kartik’s podcasts and in his writing correctly in my view that once again US Soccer had a real opportunity to capture the attention on the casual US sport fans and US sports media at Azteca, ESPN had Bob Ley at the ground, with unprecedented coverage. It was in the air: the first win at Azteca after a major performace in South Africa.

    But as those who follow the sports know, the Confederations Cup doesnt really mean anything, and winning qualifying matches against one’s greatest rival does.

    I do belive that a manager with International experience, and a good unbiased eye for talent could make all the difference next summer, although that does not include Advocaat who has been run out of almost every major job he’s had.

  14. Rex says:

    If Bradley would do two things i would forgive him.

    Give Torres some PT and be willing to sub out Michael Bradley.

  15. TTY says:

    This is a tough one………..

    On one hand I think Kartik is nuts. Bradley is clearly out of his depth and shows a stubborness and unwillingness to change. He is not the top class international manager we were promised.

    On the other hand………

    The argument about top line talent is real. Yes, we have a deeper player pool thanks to MLS than ever before. MLS has made our US pool deeper and stronger at the bottom than ever before,

    But……

    Our top players are not as good as they were ten years ago. Phil Schoen made the point, Kartik when you had him on that maybe 3-5 of the current players make that 2002 team. I tend to agree. Right now we have a lot of hype over individual Americans because more people are paying attention to the sport than ever before and people want to be able to build around supossed superstars.

    We also have the issue of a lot of new fans who just assume or dare I say take MLS and US Soccer’s word that we are always improving.

    If you ask a real EPL fan, not a johnny come lately to name a standout non American keeper, they name John Harkes, not any of the large number of Americans recently playing in England. In Spain, the same test would yield the name Tab Ramos. Italy, would give us Lalas. Germany? Probably Claudio Reyna or Eric Wynalda, although Dolo would certainly come up also, and of course he is an active player.

    Mention Landon Donovan in Germany you’ll get laughter. I suspect the same for Altidore in Spain. While players like Dempsey and McBride have had the respect as hard workers, they aren’t the signature players the USA has produced in Europe. All of them are from a bygone era.

    So Bradley in reality doesn’t have a lot to work with. He’s screwed the pooch with what he does have however.

  16. Eric says:

    I think alot of people here are thinking wishfully about our players and not being objective. Kartik has a very good point, and a good track record if you listen to previous pods going back two years on evaluating talent. He’s the first person I recall saying Charlie Davies should play for the US when most of us had never heard of him.

    That having been said, Bob Bradley is a big problem. Michael Bradley would never start if his dad were not the coach and nor would Bocanegra. Dempsey will never get benched because Bradley is scared of him and his volatility, and the continued selections of Brian Ching and Conor Casey are simply not acceptable at this level.

    A stronger personality manager, even Bruce Arena would get more out of this team, even though they do have a talent issue.

  17. Joe says:

    Those of you who really believe Kartik is off his rocker on this talent argument, check out Goff’s blog. He keeps track of Americans Abroad, and the picture isn’t pretty. Guys making late sub appearances or not playing at all is the norm.

    I suggest those who attack Kartik without being armed with actual facts check it out:

    http://blog.washingtonpost.com/soccerinsider/

    You’ll see American regulars Bradley, DeMerit, Onyewu, and Spector didn’t even play this week, while so many others played spot roles.

    If you look back we didn’t have nearly this number of guys in Europe in the past but had more guys playing regularly at decent clubs when we went on our Copa run in 95 and World Cup run in 02.

    We didn’t have a bunch of starters sitting. Even reserve players in 2002 like Regis, Dolo, Berhalter and Sanneh were getting themselves in positions to play regulary at the European club level. And our MLS contingent all played- we even had guys go Europe on loan in the MLS off-season to stay national team fit.

    • Kartik says:

      Thanks for the support on my argument, but Sanneh actually started all our WC games in 02. The other three you mention though are good arguments. In 02′ we had players at good clubs and the guys were playing. We had guys at Leverkusen, Palace, Ajax, Sunderland, Metz, Fulham, NAC, Everton, Hanover, Blackburn, Spurs, and Nurnberg at the time. Most played regularly. Frankie Hejduk did not, but his side, Bayer Leverkusen went all the way to the Champions League Final, which as Chris Webb notes, he did not play in.

      On that list you have five sides competing in European competitions.

      These days our foreign legion plays for Sochoux, Hull, Fulham, Everton, M’Gladbach, Aarhus, West Ham, Watford, AC Milan, Rennes and a few others.

      On this list you have three sides competing in Europe.

      While this list is comparable to the 2002 list, the guys on this list aren’t playing as regularly.

      • Jim says:

        u r right about the lack of player depth and i agree with ur article but its impossible to judge a players talent by what club he plays for

        ie. landon donovan plays for LA Galaxy so according to ur point he must be one of our worst players, which is obviously wrong

  18. Casey says:

    Kartik,
    Do we have and rising stars at the U20 or U17 level that can soon make an impact at the senior level?

  19. Angel says:

    @ The Ghost of Josimar you are right on your post.
    Kartik the problem is not in the youth system but is on the senior squad. We have a good player pool, Not saying is the best but they are good. But we have a bad coaching staff that doesn’t know how to place the players in their right position. For Sample, Spector play left back at West Ham, Dempsey play in the left position in Fulham, Donovan playing left midfield. But is a guy that not even Bruce Arena or neither Bob Bradley know what really is donovan true position. You say that Bob is doing a good job with what he got as a team. That just Bull crap we need a coach that can bring out their best performance, Put the player in the right position and put them in a good position to excel and perform good. USA is a very dissapline team and they have good players that would listen to any coach. I bet any coach would have them where they are now in the qualifying stage for that reason. Bob bradley is a good coach but he is not a coach that can make this team excel in the big stage like the World Cup. Plus we need to win the last to game or a least tied one game to qualify. Sunil Gulati is the other problem I say this before and I gonna say it again. We need people in the Federation of soccer and in the MLS management with soccer knowledge and have played soccer before and have love for this game. I think thats where the main problems begins.

  20. Angel says:

    Casey if you see the U17 USNMT play in the U17 World Cup coming up you will see who are our future players in the raising star. The U17 is playing a very enjoyable soccer under W. Cabrera. He is a Colombian guy who played two world cup and play in Colombia and MLS. He doing a good job with our kids in the U17, He know where to put the players where they feel comfortable and can enjoy the game. I hope when this kids grow up and come to the U20 and the Senior team they are stock in a different playing role and not feel comfortable. That is another problem since we have a coach teaching our new kids to play with a Latin and South American style that when the come to the Senior they will change to the European style and make the play long ball instead to hold the ball on the ground and play with one or two touches.

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