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Bob Bradley

Kenton Sacked: Maybe Bradley Isn’t So Bad After All? (UPDATED CONTENT)


One of the interesting features of CONCACAF is how quickly some of the national teams go through coaches. Bob Bradley is the longest tenured coach of a major nation in the region while the US’ opponents continue to react or dare I say over react to every result.

Costa Rica has sacked Rodrigo Kenton just days after a loss to El Salvador. The Ticos are in bad shape in qualifying, no doubt but Kenton’s replacement will be the third manager the nation has employed during qualifying.

Some of Kenton’s recent moves to shake up the squad were confusing and in hindsight, ill advised. In this piece I penned for another publication just last week, I believed Kenton’s panicky squad changes had helped to unsettle the team.

When you are constantly fighting for your job, sometimes one loss leads you to drop players you other wise wouldn’t as both Kenton and Sven Goran Eriksson have proven this year. Kenton did it in the last two match-days, while Eriksson fielded an odd squad against both the US in Columbus and Honduras on the road. For example, does anyone really believe Mathias Vuoso should get another cap for Mexico?

Both have been since fired.

This leads us back to Bob Bradley. For all the clamoring among US fans that he must be fired, if he felt his job was in jeopardy, you may witness some of the odd squad decisions Costa Rica has undergone recently. Since the US (contrary to some fan opinions) has been proven not be very deep in our player pool, much like Costa Rica, panicked squad changes could have led to disaster.

Kenton felt his job was on the line after one bad loss against Honduras. His team at the time was still leading the Hexagonal and on its way to South Africa. But Kenton, made the player decisions discussed in my pieces largely out of pressure to keep his job and satisfying fans after one horrible result. This led Costa Rica to perform miserably in two consecutive winnable matches. Instead of sewing up a trip to South Africa, the Ticos look like they may be staying home next summer.

I personally believe the entire US program was given too much of a pass by fans and media after the 5-0 drubbing against Mexico in the Gold Cup Final. As I have stated before while the US may have been playing a “B” team, so was El Tri, and the bottom line was that the US program, hyped to be the best in the region, had failed miserably without its regulars exposing the lack of depth in the entire player pool. But from my perspective, this result and the clear gulf in class between Mexico’s “B” side and the USA “B” side was more an indictment of the US development program, and domestic leagues than of a single coach whose hands are tied with player selection when the regulars are not available.

However, had Bradley made the same irrational, panicky moves Kenton made after both sides were dominated on August 12th (The US-Mexico score line was closer, but the balance of play was similar in the two matches.) we may be talking about the US not qualifying for World Cup 2010.

The margin for error was razor thin this past week, and the United States regulars BARELY got the job done. Now had our manager, mixed up the squad and pushed the buttons Kenton tried to push, the US very well could be in the same position as the Ticos find themselves in.

I’m not trying to give Bob Bradley a pass as has been articulated in some criticisms of my recent defenses of the coach. I am trying however, to point out that many of the problems the US team face are structural and have more to do with the administration of the US Soccer Federation than with Bob Bradley.

Furthermore, making radical changes in squad selection from the known to what appears to be better on the other side of the street has burned both Mexico and Costa Rica in this qualifying cycle. The US leads the hex not because we are the best team in CONCACAF, but because we have panicked the least and made the fewest amount of changes thus far.

I do however believe Mexico wins its last two matches and wins the Hex. But recall the trouble El Tri, who has in my opinion by far the most talented player pool in the region found itself in at the end of the Sven Goran Eriksson error.

Change for change sake doesn’t accomplish much especially if the inherent inertia which Bob Bradley has had to deal with is not cleaned out at the same time.

So again, I am not giving Bradley a pass as much as pointing out that the difficulty he faces and the frustrations we have as fans are much more complicated than many in the “Fire Bradley” crowd would acknowledge or in some cases, even understand.

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  1. EastLAChiva

    September 16, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    I don’t think Bob should get fired but the USSF should start interviewing candidates for Director of football. Someone with higher profile and international pedigree. Also, the soccer media should grow a nutsack and ask Sunil Gulati if Bob deserves an extension or raise and when he says “not yet”. The media should ask Bob if he thinks he deserves a raise.

    Meanwhile, we should see a Bob that has to continue to justify his place. Obviously, he is an adequate coach who can get outcoached with the worst of them. Firing him now AND not getting Guus Hiddink to replace him would be a mistake.

  2. CleartheBall

    September 16, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    I hated Arena as the US coach. I agree that Bradley isn’t the best possible choice, but he’s better than Arena IMHO. Until the US wins the World Cup, I’ll probably be disappointed with every coach.

    My only other argument is the Mexico B vs US B. Mexico AB vs US BCD is more like it, lets call it a C squad. The contributors for Mexico’s B are also the contributors for Mexico’s A. Our C squad provided 2 bit players for the A squad. Apples to Oranges. The gold cup final means nothing, other than it jump started Mexico’s confidence.

  3. robert s

    September 15, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Did I miss something? Let’s see the U.S. must be in 6th place and in danger of not reaching the 4th spot. No then we must be in 5th place and lost our last 2 games? No that’s not right, we are in first place with 6 points in the last 2 games. This is like leading the Indy 500 and waving your car in for an engine change with the finish line is sight.
    There is something called team chemistry. If you were to get rid of Bradley at this point half the team would probably quit in anger. When things are going right the last thing you do is make changes.
    Don’t get me wrong I am not a fan of Bradley but the last thing you do is mess with success and last time I looked the U.S.was on top of CONCACAF not is last.

  4. Soccer Guru

    September 15, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Considering Bradley never should have been hired to begin with and was like the 10th choice, I guess we should be thankful we are about to qualify.

    I agree with Kartik’s sentiment that the elite list of coaches he mentioned in the comments section would never so much as even get an interview from US Soccer.

  5. eplnfl

    September 15, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Maybe we can thank the USSF for this one. Yo-Yo coaching changes are clearly a negative influence for any team. While USSF mishandled Bradley’s original appointment we must be happy that they have looked at his entire body of work and not just one result. I will not repeat myself as to the achievements of his tenure as coach but a coach should be judged on his body of work.

    So, lets hope the steady hand at the top is a plus for the US in 2010.

    • DA in LA

      September 15, 2009 at 8:04 pm

      I’m sorry, what would that body of work be? Where exactly did he excel as a coach?

  6. DubD

    September 15, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Yes Bradley is that bad. his teams can’t pass, trap, possess the ball and have a simplistic form off attack. The fact that most Americans have never played the game, know very little about football tactics, Don’t know what manager’s do besides substitutions, and irrationally call for sacking of managers doesn’t mean Bradley is a good coach.

    He’s not. Just most Americans and most people in America commentating on football wouldn’t know a good manager if frank rijkaard punched them in the nuts.

  7. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    September 15, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Agree on Torres and Orozco. Costa Rica’s changes were the equivelent of pulling Gooch and Bocanegra out of the lineup and dumping Davies from the squad, (The dumping Freddy Fernandez, Harold Wallace and Andy Furtado) and replacing them with MLS guys that are unproven internationals.

    That’s the point. So many US fans constantly say “play this MLS guy, or play that one,” when Bradley has to know particularly after that 5-0 drubbing with a different set of players, that the pool isn’t deep enough.

    Perhaps had Costa Rica not been dumped in PKs by El Tri in the semis and instead been beat 5-0 as we were, Kenton would have returned to his senses and kept the same squad until they qualified and then started to try and get younger with domestic based talent.

    I personally do not think Bradley is an international level coach for a top program. But firing him now, or forcing him out of his comfort zone may be a mistake. And I continue to believe the problems in the US program are so deeply rooted and prevalent, that merely firing Bradley won’t make a difference when it comes down to it, unless you get a Scolari, a Hiddink, a Peckerman, a Trappatoni, a LaVolpe, etc.

    US Soccer with its current leadership will never hire one of those guys, so what difference does it make?

    • Enrique

      September 15, 2009 at 1:24 pm


      When Costa Rica got humiliated at Honduras, Kenton wanted to shake up the team and decided to punish the back line, however, Walter Centeno opposed it(the leader of the team). Centeno faked an injury and did not play, after the argument the team turned against Kenton and played terrible against Mexico. The players fully blamed Kenton for the loss and now there was no other option then for him then to get fired.

      I think Kenton is a good coach at the int. level but just like Lavolpe he needs young players, usually the veterans cannot deal with the ego and need to be treated like adults. If you remember that is why C. Blanco was left off the team in 06′ and Pavel Pardo now by Aguirre.

      Also, Mexico has now 8 players making important contributions from that A-B squad of the Gold Cup. I think the intentions were different, Bradley wanted to see if he could use one or two players, Aguirre tried to build a team and it showed in the final. Unfortunately, these decisions makes the US look really bad.

    • DA in LA

      September 15, 2009 at 8:03 pm

      I find the “we can’t fire Bradley excuse now” rather hilarious. Or what? We’ll continue to underperform? Or the team will sputter along and then end the bottom of it’s WC group? The ending to this story is obvious with Bradley at the helm.

      I actually think the best thing that could happen to US Soccer at this point would be to miss out on the WC. We need a massive shake up. The worst thing about Bradley is now he is more of the same.

  8. peter osgood

    September 15, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Whom has suggested a radical change in squad selection?

    BB got it very wrong at Azteca as you kartik, have stated. Two players who performed terrifically in South Africa were benched and the side missed them both very much.

    Meanwhile Orozco was and continues to play 9O minutes at LB in the FMF and can’t even get picked for the squad, and as you have stated Torres can’t get arrested.

    Whether having two key players left out of the starting 11 on August 12 and whether Torres should have seen significant time in a stadia he has played in more than probably all of USNT, and whether Orozco should have been at least on the bench or had a chance to start recently over Bornstein represents a “radical difference” to what Bradley’s choices were in the end is up for debate.

    KK, I belive you feel BB failed on all 4 of those decisions, if he had got all four right at Azteca would that have made a difference? If Torres and Orozco had a chance to get major minutes during qualifying would that have the US side playing better football?

    Would BB then be truly building the program for the future, or is he barely getting by with what he has whilst consistently making some seriously wrong choices?

    And if that is the case, then that would speak to the relative strength of the US pool.

  9. The Ghost of Josimar

    September 15, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    The argument for Bob Bradley become that he does not make panicky, rash decisions?

    We are asked to imagine how much worse Bob Bradley might have been if he ever felt the heat — and therefore to be thankful Bradley has been given a more or less iron-clad job security?

    Oh Kartik..

    All the old points remain:

    About how Bradley preferred Ching to Davies until Ching finally got hurt; about how Spector also only got to go when injuries cleared him a path.

    About how Beasley and Kljestan got shot after shot while a much better player — Jose Francisco Torres — remains consigned to the bench. And about how Michael Bradley, good as he is, enjoys what can only be described as special favor under his father.

    We could discuss the team sent out at Azteca, whether our *captain* should even be a starter, and so much else.

    But here’s to Bob Bradley — he’s better than Rodrigo Kenton!

    • Quakesin2kNever

      September 15, 2009 at 1:59 pm

      Spector may not be as good as we think he is… he’s been getting torched in the premier league for West Ham so far this year.

      BB has been doing fine. I’d give him a B+ overall for the WC qualifying campaign and Confed Cup. There are no better coaches available right now so firing him won’t do any good. It will also lead to panic and chaos on the team like Kartik describes with Costa Rica. Maybe after the next World Cup we can talk about changing coaches.

  10. EastLAChiva

    September 15, 2009 at 11:52 am

    No, actually Bob Bradley just sucks. He’s a number 2 all the way. Its time for some dynamic soccer. We got the players we just need a piped piper like lead us to the next level.

    Bubnker Ball must die. It has become stagnant.

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