It was announced yesterday afternoon that U.S. Soccer signed Bob Bradley to a four year extension, thus stating he will be coaching the USMNT through the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.
Over the next few days or weeks, I’m sure we will hear the various reasons or rumors as to why they signed Bradley, and why he decided to sign on. Was it because they couldn’t find someone else? Were his options of coaching for a club team abroad just rumors? A combination of both? Who knows. This is not the point of this article.
This is a lose-lose situation for both parties.
Sunil Gulati was on record post-World Cup saying that he felt the USMNT was capable of more, and whereas they did progress to the group stages, that everyone felt disappointed in the end result and hoped the USMNT would have gone further. Certainly not a ringing endorsement.
Very few national team coaches coach for two World Cup cycles. Those that do typically do not very well on their second go-round. Bruce Arena and Marcelo Lippi spring to mind as recent second cycle failures.
Bob Bradley has done a good job so far. He won the Gold Cup in 07, got second at the Confederations Cup in 09 and led the USMNT out of the group stages this summer, winning the group in the process. He’s put together a good core of players who are very industrious hard workers, and installed a brilliant never-say-die attitude that ensures their opponents can never let up for a second.
The problem is that he’s now fresh out of ideas. Bradley’s loyalty to players (e.g., Clark, Bornstein) cost them many a goal and game. Their inconsistency game to game was due to him not always getting the tactics right, but also due to who was available to him. How is any of this going to change in the next four years?
What made him successful in the last four years will not work in the next four. The USMNT, more than any other national team (aside from maybe Italy, France and England) are in need of a major overhaul. Bradley will have to let go of some of the older players that have been consistent with his time in charge (Cherundolo, Bocanegra, Gooch, etc.) and it’s always best to bring in a new coach to do so.
Change needs to happen from the top.
Bradley was a master of getting the best out of his players. With a couple of exceptions, the USMNT players were more formidable as a team than as individual players for their respective clubs. Bradley got them to buy into his system. Sometimes this worked (as did it against Spain, Egypt, the first half against Brazil, etc.), but when it didn’t, it had a lot to do with his pre-match tactics and the players he chose.
The problem as a national team manager is you have to make do with what you have. You just can’t go out and buy a player to play left back. The USMNT were definitely lacking international class players in certain positions, so Bradley’s accomplishments were that much more impressive.
As a club coach, whether it be in the UK or in The Netherlands, he has a greater chance of formulating a team that he wants than he does with the USMNT. He can go out and buy players, oversee a youth system, and experiment with style and formation during a pre-season and over the course of 38 plus games.
He could then use his impressive motivational powers and coaching abilities to bring a team up from where they currently are and improve upon their standings.
Bradley would be best suited with a team that needs a kick in the pants and who would buy into his system. Bradley in turn needs a team that isn’t full of superstars and prima donnas, but one with players molded into the type of person he is.
Coaching a mid-level Premier League team, or better yet an up-and-coming Championship team, Bradley could then hone in on his weaker attributes (formations and pre-match planning).
After some time then maybe he could come back and coach the USMNT. He would be bringing in fresh new ideas and systems that could take the U.S. to the next level.
All in all this just smacks of settling. Two parties who just didn’t want to break up; who had a good run, but ultimately they should move on. Instead, they’re giving it another go. Hopefully they will work it out, but as we and I know too well, it rarely happens.