What To Expect With Coach USA, Bob Bradley?

Will we see this often in South Africa? (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

As muddled as the USMNT’s precarious leftback situation is as steadfast Bob Bradley is to his soccer values.

For the Manhattan Beach, CA resident, the path to South Africa is one that has been undeniably a success, if only by the digits in the won-loss category. The results though have also come with a fair amount of vigorous debate, scrutiny and trepidation on “the how.”

Jumping into the cockpit on an interim basis in December of 2006, most thought Bradley a stopgap measure until the USSF, with the sour residue of a domestic coach’s blundering plight in Germany fresh in it’s memory, hired a European coach with brand equity to erase that 2006 tournament and polish up some luster on the USMNT shield.

It wasn’t to be.

Nope!

Popular names, like Jürgen Klinsmann, ran the headlines, but just five months later Bradley’s interim tag was removed. With the permanent title came a stamp of approval by the United States’ 2007 Gold Cup victory where a central field pairing of Benny Feilhaber and the coach’s son Michael Bradley teased a vision of future senior game dominance.

The next nearly two years were filled with up and downs and very uneven play, but always challenging games against the world’s best, England, Spain, and Argentina to name a few.

This column isn’t a debate about the merits of Bob Bradley as a coach.

We’ve said two things before that mute the far-reaching chants of  “Fire Bob Bradley:” 1) Bob Bradley has gotten “there”–his team finished first in its group in World Cup qualification. It’s not Bob Bradley’s “fault” that the competition might be suboptimal to the highest levels and 2) We’re 50 days from the dance. Asking if Bob Bradley should be “extended” or “fired” would be a stupid exercise.

A better exercise is to discuss Bradleys strengths and weaknesses and what results they more portend at the World Cup.

TSG is going to give Bob a rating on the TSG Bill Jeffrey scale; the coach who brought down England all those years back. As a note, you may see the same characteristic or attribute on both the positive and negative side of the equation, this is by design.

We’ll go with positives, negatives and then our take (and then of course yours):

Let’s dig in.

Positives:

Focus on in-form players for play and evaluation

Not his Arena anymore...

Perhaps Bruce Arena’s biggest downfall during preparation for 2006, has been Bob Bradley’s strongest focus.

Coach USA, f0r the most part, has been nearly maniacal about testing players when they are in-form to see their abilities. Most recent example? Trotting out Jose Francisco Torres in the central midfield against the Netherlands.

While Bradley diverged from Arena, he’s in step with Fabio Capello who practices the same discipline. The discipline has allowed Capello to avoid the reliance on a player like Michael Owen while also preparing in case Rio Ferdinand is out of action.

For Coach Bob, he’s deviated a bit–Oguchi Onyewu against Honduras–but he also spared Clint Dempsey against Costa Rica after he was ruled out against Honduras which leads us to….

Bill Jeffrey Rating: 8

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Team building:

It’s not cliche to suggest that Bob Bradley has brought the USMNT together. In the few observations that TSG has behind-the-scenes, it is clear that the players get along with one another and pull for one another. That may not be true at all time, but it clearly isn’t a case where the parts are stronger than the whole.

Some meager examples from our insight:

• At the January camp practices that TSG attended, there was very frequently both jovial ribbing and constant audible encouragement. There was veterans talking to rookies. The team all arrived together….in minivans. (There is a commercial for Dodge in there somewhere…no?)

• Twitter tells us the players overseas visit and hang-out with one another with Charlie Davies recently visiting Stu in Manchester. Stu cites that he visits with Timmy and Landon–during Landon’s time there–at Everton. Donovan choose Everton because of Tim Howard’s counsel.

Band of Brothers

Contrast this to that Harkes v. Wynalda thing or even the number one goalie undercurrent going into 2006 qualifying.

Oh, and the team all loves playing for him.

Bill Jeffrey Rating: 9

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Intensity:

Again, another practice and play observation here…and frankly sometimes the USMNT (Rico Clark and Mike Jr in particular) get to over zealous in being intense on the field.

From our practice observations, Bradley is consistently barking out instructions and demanding the effort and execution in return at practice.

Tim Howard: A star, but also vocal leader

This is an important facet of the team to point out as there is really no vocal outfield leader (Carlos Bocanegra, Landon Donovan, even Clint Dempsey) who visibly and consistently emotes that enlivened instruction on the field. Timmy does, but he can be far from the action on occasion.

Bob is measured, but forceful and it appears the right mix for this group. This is in stark contrast to Bruce Arena’s lead-up to 2006 where Brian Ching told TSG that the players were too comfortable with their roles and didn’t prepare the best.

Bill Jeffrey Rating: 7

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Finding a way to win with injuries and without bullpen:

It’s no secret that the United States is not plentiful on world class superstars. The States possess three at this juncture: Howard, Donovan and Dempsey. That’s it.

In critical qualifying and preparation games, Bradley has had to fight with a slightly dull knife yet Bradley’s team has been in all of the key ones. Let’s look at the four most recent ones: August in Mexico, October in Honduras, October at RFK against Costa Rica, March in Holland.

Not quite himself at the Azteca....

Mexico? Nearly a full squad, except for that pesky H1N1 that Landon had and the lack of fitness at the time by Jozy Altidore.

Honduras? Clint Dempsey and a out-of-form Oguchi Onyewu.

RFK? Charlie Davies and Clint Dempsey

Holland? Davies, Dempsey, Ricardo Clark, Gooch to name a few.

The USMNT is not Spain, a single injury is not trivial

Bill Jeffrey Rating: 7

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“To be the best, you have to play the best:”

As we mentioned above, the USMNT, much to the approval of most its fans, has got out the measuring stick against the world’s elite: England, Argentina, Brazil, Spain (twice), Italy. The USMNT has also had a host of games against some more World Cup-bound teams in Denmark, Honduras, Mexico and, even South Africa.

I had to include this pic...

What you can say is that Bob Bradley has qualified AND has measured players: (Pearce against Defoe, Bornstein against Messi, Fabiano against DeMerit, Torres against Boca, etc.). That’s a huge positive.

Bill Jeffrey Rating: 9

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Cultivating a defensive style of play and sticking to it.

An interesting comment emerged this past weekend, when Manchester United defeated Manchester City in their derby. Commentators applauded Manchester United’s attention to defense in a game where it was clear to see that the Red Devils didn’t have the offensive horses.

Now why doesn’t Bob Bradley and his team get afforded this same praise? As the commentary du jour is about the lack of striking power and the debate around two players–Buddle and Gomez–who should be considered a mere 50 days before the World Cup.

Juxtapose those past two paragraphs. Is it any wonder that Bradley with a world class keeper and a rather stout central backline employs a bend-don’t-break defense and a ping-pong-the-ball mentality to drive the attack?

Bill Jeffrey Rating: 7.5 (I still pine for a fit Jermaine Jones as the lone destroyer and more possession in the midfield)

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Sticking with players

TSG called for a reality check on a listless Clint Dempsey this year. Our readers have called for Jonathan Bornstein to be Fed Ex’ed to the middle of nowhere come June.

Jose Francisco Torres on most publications has been a victim of dedication to Ricardo Clark and Sacha Kljestan among others.

That said, it’s extremely difficult to play your best if you’re always on trial–or as I like to call Heath Pearce syndrome. Further, the team nature of soccer and the forced chemistry that is necessary to come together and win can create bad games for players who can’t assimilate quickly (see: Demspey, Jozy in Bratislava).

Sticking with players has allowed Bob Bradley to develop chemistry over time and understand what displays when in-form and when not. This is good if qualification is not at risk…as it is not now.

Bill Jeffrey Rating: 7.5

——-

BB: I did it my way...

Now some of the Negatives

Failure to make appropriate in-game tactical changes.

Probably Bob Bradley’s biggest and most glaring shortcoming is his tendency to “prolong the plan” too long and a refusal to introduce new tactics or players to alter the game.

Now, fans might have seen a change from this by Coach USA in the Netherlands where Bradley abandoned Robbie Findley up top, moved Landon Donovan to the center and inserted Alejandro Bedoya into the spot abandoned by Lando. The immediate result? Width to the field, space for Jozy Altidore resulting in smelling salts for the US offense.

However, as we’re prone to say on TSG, “You can’t look at one observation in isolation, you need to look at the entire body of work.”

And for Coach Sweatpants in this regards, it’s not the prettiest sight.

Some examples, in a friendly and in a final, of Bob’s stubbornness or lack of creativity:

• January’s friendly against Honduras: Coming out with four midfielders three of which demand possession and none of which take the ball to the corner all that well; and coming out with two strikers that inhabit the same space and move in the same way.

At one point, Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan actually bumped into one another going for the ball. With the intro of Conor Casey in the 2nd half and more wing threats in Bedoya and Davis the US finally found some offense and possession.

The wrong moves...and too late...

• Brazil, Confederation Cup: The USMNT faced an unfortunate moment right after the halftime whistle with Luis Fabiano making a world class strike against Jay DeMerit and Tim Howard. From there the dam busted and the States were under attack. However, it wasn’t until after the second Brazil goal that Bradley introduced Sacha Kljestan and Jonathan Bornstein for Benny Feilhaber and Jozy Altidore.

If the US were going to go defensive, it should have happened long before the 74th minute, not afterward to stymie the momentum and change the complexion of the defense that Brazil was having its way with. Introducing Conor Casey against a speedy Brazilian defense was just more lemon juice to the wounds.

For Bradley to succeed in South Africa, he cannot rely on his team’s talent merely overcoming a weaker one as the game progresses. According to FIFA, the USMNT were the highest ranked team out of CONCACAF during qualifcation. The World Cup is not CONCACAF.

Oh, and lest we not mention it, you can file the Michael Bradley’s continued misuse in a tandem CDM role here as well.

Bill Jeffrey Rating: 3

An overly cautious approach to discovering and introducing new faces.

I was very cautious with the wording of this bulletpoint. I could have written “an obstinate reliance on the wrong players” or “a failure to introduce new players.”

On the discovery front, I haven’t found too much fault with Bob Bradley’s player selections. (Of course, I am a Bornstein fan.) In the pen of players who I may have extended more frequent invitations to: Eric Lichaj and Mike Grella. Lichaj is certainly a blemish on Bradley’s record while Grella has barely played a lick for Leeds. But it’s still LEEDS!

It’s on the introduction side that I have a bigger qualm. Some of these:

Defending is not DMB's forte

• Attempting to fit DaMarcus Beasley into the leftback role; a colossal failure.

• Failure to get Charlie Davies until an injury to Brian Ching in the summer of 2008.

• Delaying Stu Holden’s introduction to the senior side starting eleven until he had enough camp reps.

If not for injuries, some of these playes–like Jose Francisco Torres–might still be languishing on the bench.

Bill Jeffrey Rating: N/A (a mute point now)

Playing down to the level of competition; failing to close out the game.

This attribute of Bob Bradley’s USMNT team is probably the scariest of all. The USMNT has a good draw to get a result in South Africa. It’s not England that the Yanks need to be concerned with–the oddsmakers have them losing the opener–it’s a Slovakia and especially an Algerian team which the US will be expected to beat.

My biggest fear for Team USA? That they’ll need a result against Algeria, but be dragged into a brawl game and lose some composure. Sure, it’s the players on the field that need to hold order, but it’s Bob Bradley’s management of the team that dictates that this is not an absolute.

In qualifying, this was never more exhibited than in September when positive results against El Salvador and Trinidad & Tobago easily could have went the other way.

Bill Jeffrey Rating: 2

Attire?

We’ve said it before. Act as if. Dress as if.

Bill Jeffrey Rating: 1

So what to expect from Bob Bradley and the States over the next three months?

It’s a non-negotiable point that Bob Bradley has thus far achieved the maximum of what he could in World Cup qualifying. The USMNT qualified first in their group.

In hindsight, it’s easy to understand Bradley’s strategy roadmap to getting to this point. 2006 and 2007 were filled with putting him imprint on the team. Bradley did this primarily by playing MLS players that bought into his strategy. Was Chad Barrett really USMNT quality at any point?

As qualifying got tougher and the World Cup closer, Bradley began to shape the team by sticking to an axiom as we mentioned that has been employed by Fabio Capello, relying on players that are fit and consistent starters on their club teams. This is a tougher thing to do with the Yanks than the Three Lions. For example, when Heath Pearce got dropped in Europe, he also vanished from Bradley’s non-Gold Cup squads.

Arriving in South Africa for the 2nd time in three years, Bradley is going to need to be tactically stronger than last time he was there. You could argue that the USMNT’s ability to get to the final game in the Confederation Cup was the result of two near-perfect performances, less the strategy and tactics that may have spawned the results.

What to expect in South Africa in reference to Bob Bradley will depend largely on the form of the players and the team chemistry; two areas where Bradley has excelled. What to fear will be if the excelling in form and teamwork is not enough in itself to put the US in position to advance and the US is forced to make a tactical change against Algeria or in the knockout round. Then we’ll be able to see how the coach, not the team has improved since 2006.

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34 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Gino on 2010/04/20 at 3:44 AM

    Great article. It’s good to see a fair and detailed breakdown on Bradley’s pros and cons. Like many USMNT fans, Bob has had me staunchly defending him from the wolves while sometimes questioning “WTF is he thinking?!”

    One thing going for him is that he doesn’t have the eyes of an entire nation scrutinizing his every decision. US soccer doesn’t have a fervent national following like everywhere else in the world. Case in point, the predominantly Mexican crowd at the Gold Cup final in NY last summer. In reality, the tournament meant nothing yet green shirts dominated the stands. While being outsupported in our own country isn’t a good thing, neither is going through multiple coaches in a WC cycle. As good as Javier Aguirre is, I doubt he would have lasted this long had he replaced Lavolpe instead of Hugo Sanchez. Hell, Ivory Coast and Nigeria replaced their coaches AFTER they qualified for S. Africa!

    Bradley should be judged by his body of work. Ultimately, that means how the US do in this World Cup.

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  2. Posted by KMac on 2010/04/20 at 6:40 AM

    Matthew, Great read and analyses.

    If I was Coach Sweatpants, as an intelligent guy, I would be organizing some meetings with some tactically gifted minds (” a strategic/tactical SWAT Team” – love to have Klinsi and even Arena on retainer – or substitute a football/soccer mind you admire/can affortd ) to mentally go through my strategies/tactics and a number of scenarios as a dress rehearsal for the big show in June.

    The purpose is threefold. One, pressure check my plans. Two, get some outside thinking to challenge and suggest alternatives that come from “the outside” – i.e. not his staff. Three, prepare and rehearse through simulation to make the right (or optimal) strategic and tactical moves when a scenario arises (begin with the end in mind). He may already be doing this – who knows.

    I would first pressure test the overall strategy to be employed against each of our known competitors and possible post group phase opponents. I would present to this SWAT Team my strategies and revisit a SWOT type analysis for each game/team covering all likely paths that lead to the Final. Next, I would evaluate some common scenarios the known tough decisions (key players recovering/match fit or not) and the types of tactical decisions which might work best against in that scenario.

    In 2002, one of Arena’s strengths was his ability to stun other teams with relatively unknown players and strategic and tactical acumen i.e. Portugal and Mexico, for example. He was criticized by many for not doing just that in 2006 (despite delivering on of the most exciting results I have sat in the stand to see USA 2-Italy 1 – oh, that’s right, they called that goal back! *&#$&%).
    With more of our players on display internationally, and the Confed Cup results, more teams will arguably have better intelligence on our team, but I still read many mistakes the foreign press (and I will assume perhaps even coaches and players) make about who our line up is, let alone how we play and what we can do well. There is still quite a bit of condescension that can be exploited.

    Perhaps even the great community at TSG could amass our collective thoughts and send them to Bob? Well at least it might be fun to has over anyway?
    KMac (McKee)

    Reply

    • I think Bob’s name-dropped Sir Alex a couple times and suggested he’s helped him prepare for England. I’ll take him over Arena any day.

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      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/20 at 7:23 AM

        Apparently, there are a few EPL managers who Bradley ‘has spoken to’… Not sure if Sir Alex is the best person to seek advice from in this instance, perhaps Moyes or McLeish?

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      • Posted by KMac on 2010/04/20 at 9:29 AM

        Fair enough Tuesday – I’d love to see some EPL gaffers on that list – great call. One thing Arena brings that others couldn’t, even EPL mgrs, is first hand experience doing well in 2002 (arguably the best any recent USMNT mgr can claim to date) as well as lessons learned about what did not go well in 2006. When I work on strategy, be it in sports or busness, the most diverse minds uncover the best ideas and uncover flaws as well as bring out of the box thinking. For my money, I would include Bruce.
        KMac

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  3. Posted by Fireball on 2010/04/20 at 6:51 AM

    I heard the same “he doesn’t make enough/right changes enough’/stubborn/no creativity” early in Fulham’s campaign last season. Hodgson was fond of responding: You start with the best gameplan to get goals, and if you change it, by definition you are going to your second-best gameplan. It’ll be your best tactics both when you start the game and when you’re down 1-0. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t make the appropriate changes, but I always thought it was an interesting philosophy, and a way to defend “prolonging the plan’, settling the side, etc. (Contrast this with mix-and-match Phil Brown at Hull). I suppose Bradley doesn’t have a whole season to really let it sink in like Roy, but food for thought.

    BTW I do think that making changes earlier would have helped us in the Brazil and even Holland games. But then again, that was Brazil and Holland. Ag. Honduras, well, I just think we didn’t have the right personnel.

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    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/04/20 at 7:03 AM

      Fireball — I think that is a very prescient point.

      If I had to split hairs, I would have to say it’s more the timing of stemming momentum slides and little needling things.

      Remember last year when for both the jv Gold Cup squad and the senior squad the US was coming out flat out of half time. It took a bunch of games for Bradley to finally a) introduce a new player right after halftime with a full tank or b) as we’ve seen a change just to long the ball out of trouble for the time after halftime.

      On of my favorite tactical moves was introducing both Benny Feilhaber and Stu Holden in Mexico at the 66th min…normally Bradley would wait another 10 minutes to do that… it changed the game, the US went on the attack and I would auger they would have went down by more had those subs not happened. As it was Holden to Davies just missed taking the lead.

      Here’s the thing if you believe in what Hodgson said…you can’t make adjustments after halftime…so you should know about 10 minutes after halftime, 20 max whether to stay the course.

      Look at this past week’s Manchester Derby…Viera was introduced at 65mins for the home side and Nani at 54 minutes I think by Sir Alex.

      Anywho — debatable point and good one you brought up.

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    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/20 at 7:14 AM

      What are your thoughts on impact substitutions? Or say you go up 3-0 which you didn’t expect – surely you would want to shut up shop and close the game out, and take the 3 points? As much as I respect Hodgson and his opinions, this is tournament football, and you don’t get too many chances to get it right.

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      • Posted by Fireball on 2010/04/20 at 10:02 PM

        To follow my point, (which i made mostly because i think its interesting, not because I believe it) I guess I think that you should make impact subs if you have the impact players who can do it. I’m not sure we got em (sorry Benny/Holden v Mexico, brilliant as you were). Not to beat a dead horse, but with no superstars coming off the bench, Roy rarely does the impact sub thing. The closest thing he does is bring on Dempsey at 70 v Juventus, who would have started if he was match fit. When up 3-0 he doesn’t even really go defensive.

        Fair point about the pressure of tournament football. in the end I think i agree with MSF that in SA the decisions need to be quicker, and therefore more decisive. Somehow Bob’s team subs have to matter.

        In the back of my mind I think part of the problem is that it’s hard to know what to do if you’re down by 1, which if I’m not mistaken, we have been 0-1 a lot lately. Do you stick with the plan or do you bring in more attack? A guy like BB would probably want to stop and figure out where the game is going before making a move, and maybe thats the 10 minutes your subs don’t have to make an impact.

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  4. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/20 at 7:03 AM

    I have been a critic regarding “Failure to make appropriate in-game tactical changes” But, to be a little fairer on Bradley, a lot of what I have critiqued has occured in friendly games and not competitive ones. I understand that on the run up to the World Cup you want to build some momentum, but one of the criticisms of SGE was that he made too many substitutions during friendlies…
    And continuing on this theme, what is the USA’s record when they go a goal down? What do the results say during Bradley’s tenure?

    On a side note: there is a difference between being international class and world class. I feel the latter gets used way too much.

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  5. Posted by danPA on 2010/04/20 at 7:10 AM

    Afraid to fail

    To me, that is the basis of most of the negatives for BB. His player choices, overcautious player discovery, hesitance for in-game tactics,etc., all seem to be a result of a coaching attitude of: don’t lose.

    Granted, sometimes in international competition, don’t lose is ok… but not for 75 minutes in Mexico City, for example. I don’t see enough in BB’s coaching decisions that tells me he has enough confidence to take a winning approach.

    That doesn’t mean going at England and trying to score and play a wide open & flowing game, but it also doesn’t mean putting a combination of players on the pitch that will not be able maintain much possession and can only sit back and defend for 75-80 minutes.

    I thought BB’s attempt to fit Beasley into left-back was a great idea. Fine, it didn’t work, but at least he tried to solve a problem by “an obstinate reliance on the wrong players” or “a failure to introduce new players.” I think that failure scared BB from taking many other chances… and the result is we still have many of the same deficiencies now, as we had 2 years age.

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  6. I think that what has hurt Bradley the most isn’t necessarily his performance, it’s that he doesn’t have an international track record so fans are always thinking, “Well, if Bob Bradley can do this well with no international coaching pedigree, then what could we get from a coach who does have that?” Bradley’s biggest hindrance is the “grass is greener syndrome.” That isn’t to say that he isn’t without faults, but what coach is? Not every coach is lucky enough to head a team that covers up flaws with wins.

    Personally, I’ve been very impressed with Bob Bradley and the things he has managed to accomplish in his tenure. It’s hard to crucify a coach for losing friendlies… those matches are often just a chance to try new tactics or new personnel. When it matters, the USMNT has performed, and that’s the stat that impresses me the most.

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  7. A good read…some points I’d like to make however

    *When Jermaine Jones gets into the mix, I think Bob will see that he can handle the CDM spot relatively unaided. That will allow Mike to attack forward and get some goals, hearkening back to his Heerenveen days.

    *Whenever the day comes that Bob realizes that his cronies (Bornstein, Kljestan, Casey, etc) just won’t cut it against top international competition, that will be a good day indeed. One only need to look at Bornsteins body of work over the last few matches to know that he cannot cut it.

    *To Bob’s credit however, in the Confederations Cup he realized the potential of CD9 and Jozy together and he stuck with that until Davies accident. (discounting a couple matches where Casey or Ching started over Jozy).

    *I wonder what Bobs salary is? Perhaps we could convince Ralph Lauren to custom make a suit for Sweatpants?

    *With the Lichaj and Grella bit, do we really think that League 1 players will cut it for the US? Both are certainly two for the future, but I’m willing to bet that most MLS clubs would take care of business against most League 1 clubs. Also, if I’m not mistaken, Lichaj is a right back by trade, a spot that we don’t need any help with (Spector, Cherundolo, and Simek).

    *I think what Bradley’s problem was in the confederations cup is that he was forced to start Feilhaber and Clark together after Mike’s ghost red card against Spain. Kljestan and Feilhaber, two more offensively minded players weren’t ready to try and shut down Brazil’s complicated attack. Maybe had Bradley Jr. been available then Feilhaber would’ve started so that Rico could be brought on later for some defensive bite. As it was, Kljestan and Bornstein vs Brazils subs was laughable. Nothing he can do there. Perhaps an earlier introduction, but thats neither here nor there. If an Edu or Jones were available, it would’ve been them.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/04/20 at 7:55 AM

      Connor

      A few replies….

      – You can find Bob Bradley’s salary here: http://www.ussoccer.com/About/Federation-Services/Resource-Center/Financial-Information.aspx
      I pretty much–and fairly–got a quick “We don’t talk about that” when I asked USSF if BB had gotten a bonus in 2009.

      Gotta disagree with a few of your points:

      – Was BB forced into using Charlie Davies or rather taking a “let’s take a look at” Charlie Davies against Egypt — I think so — before that he had gone pretty much 4-5-1 and when it appeared there was little chance of advancing introduced new players.

      – On Lichaj and Grella…I have no expectations…BUT if you’re going to bring say Brandon McDonald and Justin Braun into January camp can’t you at least go ask Villa (Lichaj I believe was done with his Lincoln City spell in January before going on loan to Leyton) and Leeds (Grella is riding the pine) to come in for a week or two of camp….did that happen?

      I think what you’ve seen with DeMerit…and kudos to BB on that one…is that the lower leagues of England do provide some solid tests and training to make good players.

      I just wanted to get a look-see for these players. Simek was invited to Holland and he is hardly a starter for Sheffield!

      On Lichaj, he’s played both positions AND check this he’s got a wicked ability to uncork throw-ins into the box. If Gooch doesn’t play…no one has this ability. Worth a look in my opinion. Just a look..that’s all I’m asking.

      – On the Brazil game I categorically disagree that it was Benny or even Rico’s fault in that game… the middle held up ok…it was the wings after Fabiano’s robust turn and score where the US had the problem…consistently breaking down our outside fullbacks wide, not on runs to the middle.

      We needed more possession. If anything that game, I might have moved to a 4-2-3-1 when Altidore tired early and used, gulp, Rico, Kljestan with a 3 of Benny Deuce and Lando above them and Davies still pulling the Craig Fagan role (sorry you brought hull city into this discussion).

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      • On Lichaj and Grella, I agree that both deserve looks, but neither are probably going to change the face of the squad that much. I thought for sure we’d see them called up for the JV Gold Cup, but Bradley was probably forced to kiss MLS’ ass and bring in majority domestic players. I’ve never seen tape of Lichaj, so i’ve no idea of his abilities. Grella looks like he could definitely give some depth, but he’s no starter or even sub at this point.

        As for the Brazil subs, one need only look at the subs comparatively: Brazil brought on Elano and Dani Alves, players worth millions on the open market, we bring on…well…goats. Absolutely no comparison. Both attacking minded, bulls-eyes from dead ball situaitons. Bornstein is hopeless against the likes of Robinho, Kaka, Fabiano, and whoever else he’s up against. Kljestan was 5 feet in the grave when Bradley inserted him. Why not use Pearce, Adu and Beasley, two more experienced (Pearce and Beasley) and frankly better players, regardless of form. Those three players scare me a helluva lot more than Bornstein, Kljestan, and Casey.

        Perhaps Bradley did stumble upon Davies’ ability, but upon it nonetheless he did stumble and there’s something to be said for that. Same could be said for Bedoya in this upcoming preliminary camp.

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        • Beasley was in appalling form and looked decidedly off the pace the first time around vs. Brazil. Pearce instead of Bornstein could be argued, but Bradley asked Bornstein to play in midfield, not as LB. Bornstein has played there before, while Pearce has not.

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        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/20 at 11:46 AM

          I think the “Icarus Paradox” sums it up nicely.

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      • Oh no, 4-2-3-1 would’ve exacerbated the problems against Brazil’s expansive style of attack in the second half. Bradley needed more traditional wide-midfield play than he was ever going to get from Dempsey and Donovan. He actually made the best possible adjustment, in my opinion – see my comment below. And as we discussed vs England, when a team plays that style, in the attack it’s all about getting into the space behind the attacking fullbacks, which we weren’t able to do in the second half.

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        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/20 at 9:23 AM

          So instead of a 4-2-3-1 / 4-4-1-1, you would have gone for a 4-5-1 / 4-3-3?

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        • No, no… a more solid 4-4-2/4-5-1 shape was required and that’s what Bradley ultimately went to, using the meager bench options he had. When Brazil cracked the pressure of the 4-tier system by overloading the wide areas, we needed to revert to a 3-tier system to give our fullbacks more defensive support. He just didn’t have the players to adjust.

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        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/04/20 at 9:59 AM

          See I don’t see it that way Tuesday.

          First, he made the adjustments obviously to late.

          Second, you’re assuming that we can get into the attack. The USMNT was pinned so dee in its side that they need an outlet hub in the middle that wasn’t one of the responsible defensive midfielders were to shut down the middle.

          I need to go back and review the game–love ESPN3.com–but I believe that’s what I remember. I also wrote too much last evening so I may be wrong.

          Reply

        • We don’t disagree about the problems, just the solution. I said he was late with his changes in the post below and that we couldn’t get into the attack in the post above. Since we’re unable to get into the attack, playing with 2 strikers for so long when we could’ve used the extra man in midfield was ill-advised. We’re talking about facing a Brazilian onslaught here, of course we had little possession.

          The only option is to absorb the pressure and hope to hit on the break. Dempsey should’ve been playing the role you describe when he moved up top after the 75th minutes substitutions. Maybe Torres for Dempsey would’ve been a good substitution but taking Dempsey off when needing a goal isn’t something Bradley has been willing to do.

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        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/20 at 10:18 AM

          Well, if you’re defending and under a lot of pressure, going from a 4 tier system to a 3 tier makes sense, as play is condensed into your half. However, on this occasion, I don’t think it was the system that failed you – we could debate this all day – it was personnel. Obviously, systems and tactics are required, but they’re no good if you don’t have the soldiers to carry out instructions.

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        • Agreed, which is why i wrote “He just didn’t have the players to adjust.” ;)

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        • Being up 2-1, there were adjustments to be made with Brazil finding and exploiting the space between our wide attacking midfielders and our wide defenders on both flanks. My point is that Bob Bradley tried to address this issue with the limited options he had available, it just came too late.

          Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/20 at 2:42 PM

        If you had the players, a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3, “could” have occupied their full backs futher up the pitch. I know, it is aggressive! But you pinned Ramos back to a large extent in the SFs…

        Reply

  8. Posted by Mike Cecire on 2010/04/20 at 7:41 AM

    Great piece – I’d have to agree with pretty much everything here. I think what a lot of USMNT fans feel isn’t anger or alarm over Bob’s tenure – he has done pretty much what he was hired to do, thus far, after all – but just a general ‘huh?’ over his style. For those of us who are attracted to creative soccer, fed by delicious bowls of EPL and La Liga readily youtubable, many people were hoping (and myself included, I think, at times) that Bob would turn the US into a possession-domination flowball team. That this hasn’t happened shouldn’t be any surprise – our squad’s overall technical abilities just don’t really give us that option as a winning proposition right now – and I think while we often know this, it still leaves us craving MORE, MORE.

    If we get a decent result in the WC, Bradley will go in the books. If not, expect that the knives come out saying ‘thanks, Bob, you’re a workhorse, but we need a prize stallion.’ I sometimes fear that would be the worst kind of result, getting us some European jack who ends up peeling all the positives that the article notes above without results. You go to the WC with the talent you have, I’d reckon, at the end of the day. Not to say that there isn’t a place for player development and tactical (philosophical?) modifications, but we’re not going to be playing like the Dutch or the Spanish just because we have a coach with an Armani suit and a summer home in Portugal.

    Reply

  9. I think Bob’s name-dropped Sir Alex a couple times and suggested he’s helped him prepare for England. I’ll take him over Arena any day.

    Bradley doesn’t quite have the confidence to make his tactical substitutions when they can have the most impact – he’s pretty much hedging them in case he’s wrong by leaving only 15-20 minutes where they could go wrong.

    The substitutions in the Brazil match were particularly maddening because he finally made the right change right after Brazil had equalized. Brazil changed their attacking focus to the flanks and changed to an expansive style of play that succeeded in pulling us out of our narrow defensive shape. Brazil’s attacking fullbacks, particularly Maicon, had been a problem that remained unaddressed for 30 minutes in the second half. Had Bornstein come on to help deal with Maicon from left midfield at 55 minutes and Donovan moved right with instructions to help Spector when we may have been talking different ballgame. Klejstan for Feilhaber was tactically like-for-like, even though the drop in quality is substantial.

    What other options did Bradley have with Jr suspended for Xabi Alonso’s play-acting after a clean ball-winning challenge (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCLDkLESZUs)? Heath Pearce, DaMarcus Beasley, Marvell Wynne, Freddy Adu, and Jose Torres. There was nothing he could do to reinforce the center of midfield.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Tom on 2010/04/20 at 9:23 AM

    It sure would be nice to see Bradley in a smart suit.

    Reply

  11. Great article.

    Reply

  12. That link to the US Soccer Financial information yielded that Bradley makes close to $500,000 per year. Not bad, but like you said, I am sure there are plenty of bonuses as well. The most interesting thing to me? Eric Gleason, the CFO for USSF, supposedly works 40 hours per week and only makes $18,707 per year. HUH?

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/20 at 11:34 AM

      If the USSF instilled performance related pay, then the brain child of Vision2010 would get $0.00 bonus!

      Reply

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