Bob Bradley: Just Playing the Cards He’s Dealt
For all of the praise that Bob Bradley has gotten and deserved for his win in Switzerland (breaking a 5 game European losing streak), 2007 Gold Cup champions, wins against Egypt and Spain, and 2009 Confederation Cup runners-up, he has gotten condemned for unimaginative performances against El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Trinidad and Tobago in World Cup Qualifying. He’s been criticized for uninspired performances against Italy and Brazil in the Confederations Cup, and worst of all, a 5-0 home loss to bitter rivals Mexico in the 2009 edition of the Gold Cup. But before the calls for Capello, Hiddink, and Scolari get too loud, you have to realize that Bob Bradley has just been playing the cards he has been dealt. Notice how this is evident in the greatest disappointment that US fans have, Bradley’s squad selection.
For months now fans have called for the inclusion of Freddy Adu, Jose Francisco Torres, and Kenny Cooper into the squad. Fans are looking for the US to have the classic number 10 who runs the midfield. And the fans are realistic in their request, they aren’t expecting Riquelme, Iniesta, or Xavi, but they are clamoring for the days when players like John O’ Brian and Claudio Reyna ran the midfield with imaginattion. But news flash to the fans, the US is not built to play that way successfully. Even though there is a collective groan when fans see the starting line-up containing two defensive midfielders, look at the collection of talent that Bradley has to choose from; M. Edu, M. Bradley, R. Clark, K. Beckerman, and very soon Jermaine Jones. Bob Bradley realizes that his team cannot out-Spain Spain, they can’t out pass Holland. As a matter of fact when Bradley’s system is applied correctly you can see the success in the results against Spain and how they pushed Brazil to the brink. And if you want to see his system at its peak, just look how Brazil runs it. The big question is; How is Bradley going to react to the new cards he is dealt? Let me explain.
Bob Bradley is very much a manager who likes to rely on what he is comfortable with, but he is going to have to make some decisions that challenge that. Will he abandon Jonathan Bornstein for Edgar Castillo? If Edgar Castillo is the answer at left back does he still try to force the centerback duo of Bocanegra and Onyewu or does he have the bottle to bench one of them in favor of Demerit? If his son, Michael, continues to lose the plot for club and country will he replace him with Maurice Edu or Jermaine Jones? Is he willing to sit either Charlie Davies or Jozy Altidore in favor of Clint Dempsey, who is begging to be played up top? Will he stick with Brian Ching over an in-form Kenny Cooper? These questions are things that Bradley will have to confront before South Africa, and he has to decide whether he stays in his comfort zone or challenges his coaching mind.