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…on Bob Bradley

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Bob Bradley has been the backup boyfriend since day one and the USSF won't let him forget it

In reply to page 42 of the August 2010 issue (issue 282) of “When Saturday Comes”

It has to be agreed; Ricardo Clark had a poor World Cup. He was reckless and lacked concentration. However, the above article treats him as a stick with which to beat coach Bob Bradley. Clark has proved a consistent performer at club level, being part of a team that won two MLS Cups and a Supporters’ Shield. Bradley was fairly unlucky; the US had courted Schalke midfielder Jermaine Jones to switch affiliations from Germany to the US but he missed the whole of last season due to injury and did not recover in time to be included for this World Cup. The other options are less experienced and aren’t any better, which is why he stuck by Ricardo Clark despite a poor Confederations Cup. He simply played the hand he’d been dealt.

Despite having won the most games of any MLS coach upon his appointment, he’s subsequently been overtaken by Sigi Schmid, Bradley was somewhat coach by default. Promoted from an interim role, which he originally got by being the best unemployed American coach who lived in Southern California, his whole tenure has always had the spectre of Jürgen Klinsmann hanging over him. Klinsmann turned the job down, US Soccer turned to Bradley and he did well enough to keep the job. Now, just as they have all along, they’re treating him shabbily.

The USSF failed to woo Klinsmann back in 2006 and they’d likely get the same outcome now. It’s not about money, it’s about philosophy and power.   Klinsmann sees himself as a rebuilder.  He would want carte blanche, he would want to get into the USSF and remake the whole system from top to bottom. Sunil Gulati, head of the USSF, just wants somebody to coach their senior squad. Klinsmann is a pipedream whilst the USSF, an organisation with a long history of ineptitude, are running the show. Besides, as a football coach, Klinsi has proven hit-and-miss, living off one good international tournament. His qualifications come as much from living in Southern California as his abilities. Besides, he’s the facilitator, the big picture guy.   He’s the sort of guy who’d run the show and put the right guys around him to get it done.

If Bradley is to be replaced, it will be a domestic replacement. Unfortunately, there is no one outstanding domestic candidate to rally around. After Steve Sampson, Wynalda/Harkes and 3-6-1 in 1998, Bruce Arena was the dominant domestic coach with DC United. Winning the first two MLS Cups, the first as part of an MLS and US Open Cup double, he was appointed after winning the CONCACAF Champions Cup. Couple his short but impressive professional resume with his tenure as head coach at the University of Virginia, featuring four straight NCAA Division 1 national championships, it was fairly easy to rally around him.

Problem is now, the win-some, lose-some nature of MLS has led to no outstanding winning coach. Dominic Kinnear has two MLS Cups but has struggled over the past couple of years as his winning team has been deconstructed. Sigi Schmid won the MLS Cup two seasons ago with Columbus Crew, to add to the MLS Cup he won at LA Galaxy, before high-tailing it to Seattle, where has done reasonably. However, both managers are robust, defence-first coaches when the big knock on Bradley is that he is similarly too defence-focused.

Fundamentally, the US’ problem is that they just don’t have the players they used to have. It’s not possible to say MLS players aren’t equipped to play in the World Cup when they haven’t replaced guys like Brian McBride, who was a key player whilst playing in MLS, or Eddie Pope, an MLS careerist. The US forward line had 38 caps between them but this wasn’t a bunch of kids, their average age was 25. The oldest, 29-year-old Edson Buddle, had the fewest caps. 92-capped DaMarcus Beasley has been exposed as distinctly average but still makes the squad. There just aren’t enough good players to go where they need to go and, worse still, there aren’t a whole heap of younger players to come through and take their spots.

Maybe critical mass will come and there will be increasingly large numbers of kids of a steadily better standard year-upon-year. However, when the 23 best players in the country are of the current standard, it suggests that things aren’t going too well. Worse still, when the quality is in decline, it suggests things are actually going badly. Despite having double the caps, Landon Donovan is just a year older than Clint Dempsey and both are now in their late 20s. Where is the new Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey?  Given this squad made the second round, maybe praise should be given to Bob Bradley rather than criticism.

Ultimately, the US public is meant to blame Bradley.  He’s the patsy.  Klinsmann made the point that the US hasn’t found its footballing identity yet and this is fine but it goes further than that.   A large chunk of the urban population is being sold short because they can’t buy into this awful “pay to play” system.   I don’t buy into a whole lot of this angry rant over on the Bleacher Report but he makes the point that young, poor, urban soccer players are  short-changed by a lack of futsal.  This isn’t Brazil, Spain or England, there needs to be a concerted effort to get every last player into the system and that is the only way the US is going to get any better.  Until that point, anybody can manage the US and they’ll be extremely lucky to better what Bradley and Arena have done.  Until the USSF gets its head out of its own arse, that won’t happen.

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Written by Michael Farrow

August 2, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Posted in Football

Tagged with ,

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