Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What about Bob?

If you haven’t heard the news already, United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) coach Bob Bradley and the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) came to terms on a 4 year contract extension that will see Bradley shepherd the team through qualifying and competition in 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Speculation on Bradley parlaying his world cup success and unique coaching style into a head coaching position in Europe appeared to fall through in recent weeks with both Fulham and Aston Villa deciding to stick with EPL experienced candidates. As recently as this weekend, former Germany manager Jurgen Klinsmann was in New York to discuss taking over the USMNT, but just like in 2006 Bradley seemed remained the most viable option. I stress the word “viable” in lieu of “desirable” because the 2 month deliberation by USSF following the world cup on whether or not to retain Bradley seemed a bit excessive for the preferred candidate.

Now that the news is out, with a full press conference to follow this afternoon, soccer websites and blogs are lighting up with comments. I can honestly say, following the world cup, I was on the “Bob must go” bandwagon. When the draw was announced I think everyone realized that the US had a cake walk to the Round of 16, and when we won the group and drew Ghana in the next match, people had quarterfinals on their minds. Yes it was disappointing to go out in the world cup, but it’s kind of like breaking up in a relationship. At the time of the break-up you have plenty of reasons why you want to end things, but after a while things calm down and you start to remember all the good times you had. It’s taken me close to two months to realize that Bob Bradley is the right choice for the head coaching position at this time, and how good we had it before the loss in the world cup. Keep in mind how injured the team was leading up to the world cup (Gooch, Davies, Dempsey, etc.), with the closest thing to an international star being Donovan, it was amazing that the US made it through the group stage. With an even lesser team (in my opinion), the US was able to nearly win the Confederations Cup in 2009 beating Spain (2010 World Cup winners) and almost knocking off Brazil in the final match (defense, anybody?). In reading comments from USMNT players through the Bradley administration the tones have changed from the first two years. There was significant in-fighting amongst the assistant coaches and players about how to handle Bradley’s coaching style. As time had progressed the leaders of the team, started to come around and be more supportive of Bradley and his techniques. Even following the defeat to Ghana in the world cup, the majority of the players were vocal in their support for Bradley (ESPNsoccernet.com, “In defeat, players stand behind Bradley”). If the players support the coach, you are winning half the battle (right France?). And if anyone ever questioned why Bob Bradley was giving starts to his son, Michael Bradley shortly after taking over the head coaching post, clearly we all know Bob had the foresight to recognize talent before the rest of us.

If those facts alone aren’t enough to justify Bradley staying on as head coach, let’s go to our fall back credentials, statistical analysis of previous coaches. There have been 6 coaches in the modern era of US Men’s soccer starting in 1989 with the lead up to the 1990 world cup in Italy (our first in 40 years). Below is a breakdown of each coach’s record, along with major accomplishments. Keep in mind the USMNT of the early 1990’s didn’t attract international competition like the current squad, meaning there’s a difference between beating Malta in 1990 and drawing England in 2010.

Bob Gansler (1989-1991) – 14-14-6, 1990 World Cup Group Stage
John Kowalski (1991) – 2-0-1
Bora Milutinovic (1991-1995) – 30-33-27, 1994 World Cup Second Round
Steve Sampson (1995-1998) – 27-22-13, 1998 World Cup Group Stage
Bruce Arena (1998-2006) – 71-31-26, 2002 World Cup Quarterfinals, 2006 World Cup Group Stage
Bob Bradley (2006-Present) – 38-20-8, 2009 Confederations Cup Runner-Up, 2010 World Cup Round of 16

What about Bob? We will find out over the next four years with the hope of a return trip to the world cup in Brazil, Bradley surpassing Arena for the most wins, and helping the USMNT transition in a new wave of young players.


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