Sitting here almost a week after the 2010 World Cup, I like many other US fans have been going over the many pros and cons of retaining Bob Bradley as the US manager. US Soccer President Sunil Gulati and Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed probably have many of the same questions that we do, as they decide what action they should take regarding Bradley. But there is one question that keeps haunting me, one that I would definitely have to know the answer before I retained or hired Bradley, and that is, Can Bob Bradley Learn? Let me explain
During his tenure Bradley’s team have been chronic slow starters. These slow starts haven’t just been a disease of the World Cup. Starting at the beginning of World Cup qualifying in 2008 to today the US has played a total 40 matches. In 13 of those matches the US was trailing by halftime, that’s 32%! Ten of those thirteen matches the US trailed by the 25th minute. The startling aspect of these numbers are that these results came against CONCACAF teams during qualification. Teams that are considered inferior competetion by the world’s footballing standards. Now I am not saying the the US should expect to beat all their opponents by 4 goals or that Bradley should have the US playing some sort of free-flowing, pass happy football. He can only work with what he has. But Bradley has regularly fielded teams that were unprepared in some aspect of the game, be it mentally, physically, or tactically. After this World Cup the US will be taken seriously in any tourmanment it enters but their inability to start quickly gives the appearance that they don’t take match seriously. For the first time the US can leave a tournament with international and domestic respect. In the next four years lets have that respect because the US can field a team of truly professional, composed footballers and not because we are the spunky underdogs or the fighters who never quit. Lets be the fighters who never give up a lead, the fighters that kill off games. Let teams chase us. This can all be done playing the brand of football we play right now!
Now the growth of this US team since 2006 can not be understated, but can Bradley grow and learn as a manager in the same way? Bradley will not last long in a second tenure with the US or at Fulham if he continues to have his teams shoot themselves in the foot in the first halfs at matches. In the past four years we have seen Dempsey and Donovan prove to us that they perform in a world class league and on the big international stage. We’ve seen them complete their growth as players. Will we see Bob Bradley complete his growth as a manager?