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Bob Bradley

Bob Bradley Did Great, but the USMNT Should Hire Someone New

United States national soccer team head coach Bob Bradley responds to a question from a reporter at a news conference in Irene June 27, 2010, one day after the U.S. team lost to Ghana in their second round match in the 2010 World Cup.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder  (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)

After the failure of Germany 2006, nobody wanted to hire Bob Bradley for this job. It was hard to find a fan that thought he was the right man. US Soccer was desperate to hire Jurgen Klinsman. Columnist fantasized about importing some maestro from Europe or South America.

When the other options failed to pan out and Bradley was hired, there was clearly an air of Miss Congeniality about his appointment. His initial contract was not even guaranteed through the 2010 World Cup. Bradley was the date we all settled on while we looked longingly across the dance floor at the girls we really wanted.

And yet, Bradley did great. From the beginning, he wanted this team to play against the best competition he could find. That meant friendlies against top teams, and winning the Gold Cup so that the US could play in the Confederations Cup. Bradley banished the notion that games against Upper Tonga, Lower Bratslana, or the People’s Republic of Weak Sisters could offer anything useful.

Moreover, Bradley would seek out, find and play the young generation against these teams. The first time I saw Charlie Davies or Bennie Fielhaber play was when they put on the USMNT uniform. His son Michael earned a position on the team in such a way that nobody could ever accuse his coach of nepotism.

The team that took the field this month in South Africa was the most prepared US team in history. They had played more competitive games against meaningful opponents than any that had preceded it. Their fitness level was spectacular, and everyone knew their roles and responsibilities.

While many can take issue with some of his team selections, that will be the case with any national team coach. Every national team loss all over the world is always attributed to team selection, and the fact that the US team now has choices worthy to generate a debate is, in itself, an odd sign of progress.

That all being said, it is never a good idea to give a national team coach a second term in office. The US should look for a new boss.

The record for the second go-around is almost always a disaster. Italy’s Lippi, France’s Domenech and even the US’s Arena can all attest that the second trip to the dance is almost always worse.

Why is this? National teams need a fresh set of eyes to keep the team playing in a manner the Marine’s call “frosty.” Teams that are alert, aggressive and ready for action always do better. Teams that develop a comfort level with their coach and whose players assume (usually correctly) that their rapport and history will guarantee their place almost always underwhelm.

Four years from now, Landon Donovan will be treading that fine line between being a supremely experienced player who can dazzle and a 32-year-old player who is losing a step. If Donovan is really on the latter side of that line, will Bradley have the fortitude to drop him? If a manager does that to a player who has been with him for seven and a half years, will the rest of the team find that emboldening or demoralizing?

The US may be ready for a coach that combines the strategies and tactics of a foreign manager with the physical fitness and sports science expertise of a US coach. Who is that person? It is hard to say, but managing a young and improving US team is a plum position for many coaches of high reputation. It would be a strong move for US Soccer to explore that job pool.

As for Bradley, I would love to see him become the first American to manage overseas. I don’t doubt his ability and his intellect, and it would be fascinating to see the Princeton educated and hyper-disciplined Bradley bring something very new and very American to a European club team.

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  1. short passes

    July 5, 2010 at 12:44 am

    Klinsmann’s so-called failure at Bayern is much less clear-cut than people portray it. A couple months after he left, Bayern spent over 70 million euros for 8 new players , then a month later they bought Arjen Robben. It seemed that immediately AFTER Klinsmann was let go, somebody at Bayern recognized that they needed a new TEAM. And you can’t blame Klinsmann for that since he was only there for 10 months. The one thing that he was recognized for is that he attempted to change Bayern into a more attacking team and some of the old members of Bayern weren’t ready for that.
    I personally think that we need Klinsmann more for his ability and apparent desire to shake up US Soccer than for any tactical magic that he might bring. I believe that we have gone as far as tactics alone will carry us. We need more skilled players and a uniquely US style.

  2. Flea

    July 2, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Ricardo La Volpe enough said!

    Klinsmann was a great player but not to good of a coach look at what he was given at Bayern and what he did with it.

    La Volpe is an excellent coach and knows exactly what to do with Torres, Fuliharber, Castillo, Bradley, and Donovan and yes even Abu.

  3. CTBlues

    July 1, 2010 at 10:55 am

    I wish we could have gotten the Golden Guus.

  4. GaryD

    July 1, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Yeah, let’s fire the guy who built the best US MNT ever. Just what US Soccer would do in the old days.

    • The Gaffer

      July 1, 2010 at 6:25 am

      Gary, what are you talking about? Bora Milutinovic was let go several years ago!


      The Gaffer

  5. JM

    June 30, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    At the major tournaments…

    2007 Gold Cup: 6-0-0
    2007 Copa America: 0-3-0
    2009 Confederations Cup: 2-3-0
    2009 Gold Cup: 4-1-1
    2010 World Cup: 1-1-2

    TOTAL: 13-8-3

    Frankly, I think he’ll be shown the door. On the upside for him, he’ll be a hot property during the 2010 MLS off-season. I wouldn’t be shocked if he were tapped as the guy to rebuild DC United.

    As for USMNT, I think you can forget about Klinsmann as long as Gulati and Co. run USSF.

  6. David

    June 30, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Bob Bradley should have been fired a long time ago. He’s a terrible coach. Changing the lineup for the game against Ghana by starting Ricardo Clark was a costly decision. I don’t get the logic of starting Findley either. He’s just a speedy player that can’t finish. He was useless in the World Cup. I don’t get why Bradley continues to use these players when time and time again, they don’t deliver. I think the same can be said with Altidore. If a player isn’t delivering, why continue to start him? Why not start Buddle and Gomez one match? The other issue I have is the U.S. repeatedly giving up early goals. This issue goes back into qualifying. To me, that is a clear sign of poor preparation. The U.S. needs a European coach, most notably Klinsmann. In the bigger picture of things, I think the U.S. Soccer Federation as a whole needs a good house cleaning, starting with the firing of Gulati and Bradley.

  7. shortpasses

    June 30, 2010 at 11:13 am

    I hate to admit it but at the beginning of his term, I was a very big supporter of BB. I believed that he would introduce a new style of play based on skill and creativity. I also anticipated that he would bring in new players to implement this new style. In both cases he initially met my expectations. He identified and brought into the team Torres and Feilhaber and emphasized the play of Donovan and Dempsey. However, approximately a year ago he began to drift toward a much more conservative approach to his team. After initial interest, it seemed that he decided that we didn’t need a creative midfield. Torres and Feilhaber almost disappeared. Then they popped up briefly in the lead-up to the WC but again disappeared in the starting WC line-ups. The big question in my mind is, what happened? I will venture one guess — pressure to get out of the knock-out round at all costs !! It’s pretty obvious that trying to play creative, attacking soccer is more dangerous than playing tight defense and relying on the counter. It appears to me that BB jumped into the latter option with both feet — by default Feilhaber and Torres were out. If I’m close to the truth????? then the next question has to be where did the pressure to play solely to avoid defeat come from. My guess is from US Soccer in general and Gulati in particular. If that in turn is close to accurate then the next head coach better be an independent SOB who can bring the style and players that he truly wants to the next WC.

  8. Jammer

    June 30, 2010 at 1:16 am

    Agree 100%. BB did a good job. But we should aim to do even better. Also, two cycles is too long. Bring in a new coach with new ideas, who can learn from the successful ideas that Bradley brought in and add to it.

    One thing about Bradley, is that the US team was never comfortably beating the smaller concacaf teams. 20 points is great, but so few of the wins were comfortable, I really think we should be blowing some teams out. A big problem was giving up early goals, the exact thing that continued to occur against better opposition in the world cup.

    I like the way the team played, but I just think we should continue to strive for better, and Bradley has shown what he can do already.

  9. CoconutMonkey

    June 29, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Well said EA.

    I would be happy to see Bob Bradley stay on board. His resume speaks for itself. And if anyone can stay frosty, it’s him.

    At the same time, if there’s a suitable replacement, I could understand wanting to bring in some new blood for the next round. They’re pretty big shoes to fill though, remember what happened with the Mexicans up through qualifying. A big name doesn’t mean much if you have to sack the guy a year into the job.

  10. Now

    June 29, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    I think we should keep BB.

    That being said, if he stays, and if he effs up the next confederations cup or loses a couple games in qualifying, I don’t want to see people clamoring for his head right in the middle of WC2014 cycle. If we are gonna ever fire him over the next 4 years, either do it now or after the next gold cup. Just don’t do it in the middle of WC qualifying.

  11. Dan

    June 29, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    I think we all know the right answer. Klinsmann! He would be perfect, let him have the control he needs!

  12. Cavan

    June 29, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Well said. Coach Bradley was successful by most all metrics given what he started with. I agree that his tactics and player selections will become stale if he stays on for the next WC cycle. Bruce Arena was also a good coach who had similar success with less talent. Yet, the second WC was nowhere near as good as his first. That seems to be the nature of the job of a national team coach.

    Coach Bradley should be praised just like Coach Arena was. We should also not make the same mistake of a second World Cup cycle like with Coach Arena.

  13. jtech

    June 29, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Bob did great and applaud his success. I think he should go but also believe the USSF should have a cycle for grooming the future head coach…just like Klinsmann and Low. Someone to be on the inside to see what has transpired and have the vision to take it to the next level.

  14. sergio lima

    June 29, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Would the soccer federation be open for a Brazilian coach to run the entire soccer operation?

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