Just two days after Bob Bradley’s USA side was knocked out of the 2010 World Cup in heartbreaking fashion by Ghana, US Soccer President Sunil Gulati was asked how he felt about the team’s tournament run.
He answered, “I think the team is capable of more. I think the players know it. I think Bob knows it. And so at that level we’re disappointed we didn’t get to play another 90 minutes at least.”
He would go on to talk about his extreme disappointment in the campaign, and make Bradley’s job status a loud, open question for months to come.
For the president of the federation to bludgeon a team that had just played some of the most thrilling soccer in the history of the country and call its coach’s future into question was beyond irregular – it was unprecedented.
Sure enough, Gulati spent the next handful of months chasing his favorite son. Not for the first time, either. Gulati’s infatuation with Jurgen Klinsmann is about to run into its tenth year, and it’s been nothing short of embarrassing.
After the 2006 World Cup, Gulati paralyzed the entire national team program for six months while he tried to land Klinsmann to replace Bruce Arena. The proposed deal broke down due to Klinsmann’s increasingly ridiculous demands, and Gulati didn’t have a plan B.
Thankfully, Bradley, who was appointed as the interim manager, did well enough to lock down the job full-time.
But Bradley was always US Soccer’s second choice, and no matter how well he did at the World Cup, Gulati was always going to take another run at Klinsmann. He struck out once again, but never really stopped negotiating, and he finally landed his man soon after Bradley lost the 2011 Gold Cup final against Mexico.
Bradley always faced the pressure of needing results to keep his job. He often got them, too, winning a Gold Cup, making a Confederations Cup Final, winning the Hexagonal, and advancing in the World Cup.
His post-USA coaching career has only enhanced his status as one of the finest and most admirable managers this country has ever produced.
The pressure Bradley faced as US coach hasn’t applied to his successor.
Ironically enough, Gulati’s warm embrace has ensured that Klinsmann doesn’t have to face the kind of accountability he demands from his players. The year 2015 has made that abundantly clear.