Jul 28, 2011

Bradley Out? First Thoughts

The news that Bob Bradley has been relieved of his U.S. national team coaching duties is probably a welcome sign by a fair number of critics of Bradley and might be a blessing for U.S. Soccer for the 2014 World Cup cycle.

I suppose the first question has to be, am I suprised? No, not really. Historically, coaches rarely do as well in holdover stint at the helm of a national team. That is not just a U.S. team history, but a world trend as well. It is also no great secret that Bradley was not U.S. Soccer's first choice at either time he was hired or held over. That U.S. Soccer was chasing Jurgen Klinsman was not secret, not to the fans and certainly not to Bradley.

But by the same token, Bradley has done what was asked of him. He guided the U.S. to a Gold Cup 2007 win, navigated the U.S. through World Cup qualifying for 2010, had, by any measure possible, a fantastic Confederations Cup in 2009 and reached the knockout stages of the World Cup, even winning the group. Bradley is the winningest U.S. National Team coach in history. He has done better than any of his predecessors.

So is it fair to fire the man? Well, to be honest, it would have been far better to have not hired him a second time around in the first place. But now is the right time, indeed the only time when he could be fired. A win at the Gold Cup (and remember, the U.S. made the final--which was a primary goal) would surely have continued to mask the problems with Bradley as the coach.

But interestingly, Bradley's sacking gives me hope in a different regard and not simply the fact that we will see new leadership. Bradley's sacking tells me that U.S. Soccer has higher expectations than simply reaching the knockout stages of the World Cup or making the final of the Gold Cup or winning World Cup Qualifying. U.S. Soccer wants trophies and they want them bad. Do we have the playing talent to get there? That has always been a question, but I believe the answer is yes, we showed that we could go toe to toe with the best teams in the World two years ago, beating Spain and coming withing 45 minutes of beating Brazil. That was done with players who, arguably are no longer the best America has to offer.

While we might have been happy in the past with making it to the Round of 16 at the World Cup; U.S. fans want more and now it seems clear that U.S. Soccer wants more.

Bob Bradley is a fine man, and a decent coach, if a little moribund at times. However, he is not the man to take the U.S. into the quarter or semi-finals of the World Cup. Tactically he has been found out by other coaches and he might not have survived CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. The U.S. MNT cannot be put in the situation that the WNT team was going into the 2011 Women's World Cup, that is having to win a play-ing game after not qualifying in the tournament.

So the question next on everyone's mind is, who is Bradley's replacement. I have my suspects, but will wait until tomorrow. Until then, allow me to extend my thanks to Bob Bradley, he has done well and I wish him well in the future. I think he won't be unemployed long.