Bob Bradley has far too many critics. Some people who believe the US is a big time program and should be led by the likes of Guus Hiddink, just do not get the realities of dysfunctional US Soccer Federation who blew the hiring of Jurgen Klinsmann for the simple fact that they are control freaks and do not take well to any type of criticism.
US Soccer is married to their system and their structure, both of which are highly suspect. The Bradenton Academy in Florida is now ten years old but as we discussed earlier this summer, it has been producing fewer and fewer truly elite players for the national team.
The US Youth National Teams tend to emphasize results over proper player development, leaving some of the best long term prospects frozen out. Some, like Nevan Subotic and Arturo Alvarez even decide to try their luck elsewhere after dealing with the youth coaches. Alas, not ever player has that option, and many young prospects fall victim to US Soccer’s peculiar idiosyncrasies.
MLS is struggling to keep top line talent and several good young American players are frustrated by a lack of playing time or poor tactical coaching in the league. USL is proving to be one of the most dysfunctional leagues on the planet and the crisis of USL puts the PDL which has developed so many key USMNT players at risk.
While more Americans than ever are at European clubs, no one plays a Claudio Reyna or John O’Brien type role for a club that is threatening to win their respective national competition and play in the Champions League.
Add to this the insistence by the USSF to play “home” qualifying games in stadiums that either don’t fill up or attract opposition fans and you understand that Bradley has had a nearly impossible job.
Yet, American fans rightfully impatient and unwilling to think about the structural defects and dysfunctional nature of the system have directed their ire at one man, who by some accounts has done a remarkable job keeping a ship that took on water three years ago, afloat. The anger by US fans is justified and quite frankly, I would like to see more of it. But, the target is not. Bradley is simply a product of a flawed and failed system.
Bradley was never anything more than a transitional manager. In that regard, he is still to be judged. Were he a Klinsmann or Hiddink type hire, it would be one thing, but he is not.
Yet, despite all of this a win (which is almost a lock) tonight in Port of Spain would take the US to within shouting distance of a sixth straight World Cup berth. This would be done despite a talent pool with less top line talent than four, six or eight years ago, a stronger CONCACAF region and the handicaps from the domestic structure that Bradley’s predecessor, Bruce Arena did not have to deal with.
For all his other flaws, many tactical and in player selection, should the US win tonight (which, again is a virtually a lock), Bob Bradley must be given credit.
Is Bradley the manager I would have hired? No. Would I even have considered him? No. But given the situation with US Soccer it is completely unrealistic to expect anything other than the results, poor as they may seem that we have achieved. Moreover, it is totally unrealistic to think a foreign manager would take the US job with the Federation structured in its current fashion.
It’s time US fans directed their anger where it should be directed: at the
Federation and its structure, not at the manager who is simply at the mercy of that very structure and system.
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