On Bradley-Klinsmann: Style Trumps Substance

A new era

Heavy now lays the crown on Sunil Gulati’s head, no?

Say goodnight to this uncomfortable partnership...

In a shocking–more in timing than content–move, Sunil Gulati bounced the Bob Bradley era at the door this past Thursday and one day later made finally ushered in the Jurgen Klinsmann era.

Klinsmann will be introduced today at 10am ET in New York City as the new manager of the US Men’s National Team.

The outgoing and incoming US manager could not be more different, in pedigree, in appearance, in disposition to the media and in many comparisons that will no doubt come.

The entire Bob Bradley era can be summed up in three words, “Substance over style.”

The results and the records speak for themselves. Finals appearances in the 2007, 2009 and 2011 Gold Cup and the 2009 Confederation’s Cup–though a win in only one. Bradley commandeered the Yanks to their first ever World Cup Group Stage win, but then flunked against a beatable Ghana side in the next round.

The Princeton alum’s tenure ended with a seemingly strong 43-25-13 record, however inclusive in that is a 5-4-4 record since the World Cup and a 4-12-6 against UEFA, CONMEBOL and Mexico since 2009.

Overall, not a terrible resume to bring to one’s next job, but also not sterling.

Some will point out that what they say is a mediocre talent pool or short camp bursts with immense travel, little practice and two matches back-to-back, however that misses the point.

After five years at the helm, the US still suffered from the same over-arching problems under Manager Bradley despite full awareness and education on his gameplan before arriving in camp. They were: a) a penchant to give up an early goal and have to battle back into contention during the match and b) an inability to dictate the tempo to opponents–especially weaker, less talented ones that should be dominated.

Ponder.

Was there more than a handful of matches during Bradley’s reign where you could say, ‘This one is in the bag’?”

Amazingly the hero in what shouldn't have been as tight a game...

Two perfect examples of Bradley games were this past Gold Cup’s win against Panama and the 2009 qualifier against El Salvador home at Rio Tinto in Salt Lake City.

Addressing the former, by all accords the US was coming up against a disciplined Panama team, but one they clearly trumped in talent.

After watching his team sputter when pressing up the pitch in the group stage loss against the same opponent, Bradley’s gameplan was to sit back and see who flinched first on losing shape. As we know, Panama did and Adu, Landon, Dempsey were the heroes.

Did the US win? Yes. Could they have easily lost? Absolutely. Should they have been that close to losing that game? No, probably not. That was a Panama team that had some difficult against both Guadeloupe and Canada in their other group games.

Substance.

A positive result; yes.

Style.

No.

A brief moment of success in an otherwise ordinary performance in September 2009

Addressing the latter, with the team coming off a difficult road game earlier in the summer against Mexico at the Azteca, Bradley’s troops came up against El Salvador–a tough, chippy opponent to be certain–but one that should also have the play dictated to them by the States on their home dirt.

The result that day? Positive. 2-1.

The outcome assured? Not in the least. In fact the US were dominated for large stretches.

The US men’s team won the games they should with Bradley, but it’s hard pressed to find more than a sprinkling of games–if that–during Bradley’s tenure where the US beat a quality opponent and dominated the run of play.

The 2011 Gold Cup only echoed that skeleton knocking on the closet door.

After five years of coming into camp and knowing what to expect, the core of the US team couldn’t be counted on to deliver a consistent style. Sitting back and countering is one thing–if like Germany–your counter is devastating. For the States, it became more bunkering as their counter was hit-or-miss at best.

When you don’t know who are, when you’re identity is uncertain, when there is no style, you’re left only with results.

And if they don’t meet expectations–Sunil Gulati stating earlier this year that the somewhat lofty mark of success was winning the Gold Cup–then you leave yourself in a precarious position.

As did Bob Bradley.

History will look back and rightfully illuminate the Bob Bradley era as a success in terms of the won-loss record. A coach who did with what he had, but only more on a few occasions and rarely convincingly.

———–

….Ze German is coming…

Cheery at the start...

As the US moves towards 2014 qualifying, is Jurgen Klinsmann–the man with one short coaching tenure since his 2006 national campaign with Germany–the answer?

To delve into that, the success metrics are needed.

And they are unclear.

On the surface, a Jurgen Klinsmann hiring seems obtuse. With the core for 2014 already likely in place and the bemoaned allusions to one term being enough for a coach, the US needed a tactician and a player development hound.

What they got was a tried and true “manager” whose staff picks now are absolutely crucial to success. Why?

Jurgen Klinsmann has never been an “X’s and O’s” guy–preferring to rely on motivational tricks and building support around him.

But perhaps this hire isn’t about the coming cycle, but about the future of the program.

After sitting on Sunil Gulati’s decision for a few days, I’ll go as far to say, it’s helluva (but logical) gambit.

With Bradley, USSF was getting results against like or worse opponents and uneven play.

The core of the players that will likely determine success–at least up the field–in 2014 are the same. Names like Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, and Altidore.

Perhaps a new coach can shake up the group enough or merely create a little bit more excitement. In other words, squeeze a little bit more out of the Landon Donovan era.

There is risk this cycle to removing Bradley, but there could be major gains at moving forward and they’re are worth it.

It could be a colossal failure as well, but just like Bradley went to a reliever named Jonathan Bornstein a few weeks ago, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Had Gulati left Bradley in charge–bucking the odds and bucking the inability of the team to deliver consistency at the Gold Cup–he too would have been complicit in a staid level of play.

Making the change acknowledges at least the possibility that the States can do better.

Beyond 2014 is really where Gulati’s logic lies and where this decision may look better.

Whether he’s respected now in Europe or not, Klinsmann name has cache. He can point to a successful European playing career, a successful international run, and at least the experience of directing a major club.

In hiring Klinsmann, Gulati creaked open the door to future international hires off a higher ilk. It appears Gulati attempted to secure some of these this time around–Hiddink, Bielsa–but for whatever reason–and likely not cash–the role was unappealing.

Now , in hiring specifically Klinsmann–someone who Gulati has developed a rapport with over the past 5 or so year–Gulati gets someone who should be desperately trying to clear the blemishes in his recent past track record, someone who is a professed fan of the American culture (soccer included) and someone who actually wanted the job.

That and and the former German striker has an identity and at least grandiose plans for US development that not one coach before him counted on his resume.

Klinsmann may fail as coach–his most recent track record of captaining Bayern Munich and the lack of offers seem to suggest that.

But the move at least stirs up some hornets with the current players and puts the US–spectacular success or failure–a little bit more on the forefront of global soccer and that is a good thing.

———

Some closing bullets.

Good.

• Michael Bradley

Has Junior Bradley grown up since his days of challenging the front office of the MetroStars? It would appear not after his latest run in with Eric Wynalda.

That said the younger Bradley is obviously smart enough to go about his business and take the unceremonious exit of his father from the US Men’s highest position in stride.

That exit could be a catalyst for the younger Bradley on the pitch. Klinsmann, no matter what formation he plays, is likely to free the younger Bradley from his pedestrian playmaking responsibility. (And hopefully we moves him up the pitch in traditional forward-pressing role where he will excel)

In public, the move does wonders for the former MetroStar. Bradley’s name was often denoted with a metaphorical asterisk by US fans. No player was given as much lattitude as Michael under his father’s watch. The debate of nepotism versus “earning it” will now cease and fans will view Bradley as “player” without the negative lens they often did.

• The interesting juxtaposition of Dempsey and Donovan

Something that hasn’t really been investigated here is the yin-and-yang of America’s two offensive catalysts Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey.

Before the close of 2010, America was arguably Landon Donovan’s team. Clint Dempsey’s performances were erratic though climatic while Donovan’s were more assured..and climatic as well.

As the US picked up again in 2011, Dempsey–displaying consistency in his club play while taking it to the next level–became the rightful go to man for Bob Bradley. Bradley went so far–in one of his rare moments of singling out the forward–the best player on the Yanks after the Paraguay game.

As the Gold Cup dawned, it was clear that Bradley favored getting the ball to Dempsey as the initiator of the offense while Donovan’s play struggle and role was unclear. The culmination of what appeared to be some tension, saw Donovan dropped to the bench against Panama as Bradley cited a need to keep his team consistent.

Post Gold Cup and in the debris of the Mexican tornado? It was Dempsey who gave a vote of confidence for Bradley nearly two years after the two had a heart-to-heart at the Confederation’s Cup about his lack of a focal point in the manager’s offensive scheme.

It was Donovan–who Jurgen Klinsmann has long championed–who remained mum.

Interesting.

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51 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by KickinNames.... on 2011/08/01 at 7:41 AM

    Fantastic overview, as usual. Great job reducing this what it is…a bit of a gamble with a significant upside if the right staff etc are put in place for a program that needed a change in leadership to move forward.
    I emphatically agree with your point that Michael Bradley can be better off as a player without the Oedipal overtones to his MNT career. I’m also a firm believer that he can be a valuable contributor to the squad in a more advanced role (kind of an offensive destroyer) unique to the US’s talent and capabilities. Attacking the mid and final third of the field as a trailing MF as part of a 5 man MF would allow him to play to his strengths in going forward and finding space at the top of the box with LD and Clint et al driving the line.
    Keep spoiling us with clear nonpartisan content. Much appreciated.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Hanns VonPackal on 2011/08/01 at 8:12 AM

    Many points in this article are true. But the speculation that Dempsey and Donovan are the future for US soccer is absurd. Currently we employ one of the most dysfunctional player development and player identification systems in the world. On top of the fact that our current understanding of the higher level of play and coaching is not there. That fact was apparent every time the US men’s team fell back into defensive formation. In which you clearly see 3 straight lines, defense, midfield and offense, can you say flat formation. We as a soccer nation have little understanding of team shape, which is not formation!! So to put faith in players who have been brought up in this tactical and systematical nightmare is clearly not the route we as a soccer nation need to take. Also on the topic of dysfunctionalism. Our current USSF ranks bottom of the coaching educational systems in the world. ( This does not bode well for American youth.) We have year in and year out tried to conform to the who is the best in the world at that moment. First Brazil, then Italy, France and now Spain. We rarely look at our reflection in the mirror. We might be a nation of many different ethnicity’s but we are not Brazil, England etc… Jurgen Klinnsmann is a step in the right direction but for us to truly succeed in the future we must revamp our system, one that relies on a youth players parents making more than 6 figures just to play soccer in the United States. Does not work. Lastly, we need to put an intelligent, honest, hardworking titan in the position for youth development.(Sorry but the college to build our pros is not the way its gonna work.) Considering for a player to play at the D1 level they have to have 2 things higher than soccer ability/ IQ. Money and Education!!! We have to make soccer totally inclusive regardless of education, social status, and cultural upbringing. As the rest of the world is becoming more cosmopolitan, we also need to look at our athletic diversity. The best and the smartest should play. Not following political interference.

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    • I don’t think the assertion was that Dempsey and Donovan are the future but that they’ll be critical to the team in 2014 (which I agree with).

      Reply

  3. Posted by Texas 1836 on 2011/08/01 at 9:27 AM

    What’s easier to find?

    A) An X’s and O’s wizard to serve as the right-hand man for a grand visionary with big ideas about how to shake up a stale organization?

    B) A grand visionary with big ideas about how to shake up a stale organization to serve as the right-hand man for an X’s and O’s wizard?

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    • I hope A :-)

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      • Posted by Tux on 2011/08/01 at 10:21 AM

        A, far and away. It lets the wizard focus on tactics without dealing with the media and such. Let the visionary spout his ideas about change and development, it translates much better in the press than trying to explain the complex tactics to the less knowledgeable American soccer fans.

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        • Posted by Mike on 2011/08/01 at 10:40 AM

          So, the next question, who is the X’s and O’s wizard? Anybody come to mind to fit this position? In press conference, Klinsman stated he was under much more pressure as German National Coach, but he has some time. I would assume he has a list of candidates already.

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          • Posted by Berniebernier on 2011/08/01 at 2:29 PM

            I still believe that the USMNT job is one of the more plum jobs if you are an “up and comer.” I am not delusional and I don’t think people would rather coach the US over England/Italy/etc. But I do think that this is an obtainable job for those that want to move to the that England/Italy/etc type job.

            I do think that it offers you a team that has:

            1) A fairly easy WC qualifying gauntlet to run (CONCACF much easier then CONEMBOL or UEFA).
            2) A team that has low expectations so if you do good you are getting most of the credit.
            3) A team that is likely to improve over time so that the you have the wind at your back.
            4) Very little media scrutiny in the meantime

            All in all there aren’t many (or any) WC knock-out stage countries that fit those 4 criteria.

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          • Posted by Jared on 2011/08/01 at 3:18 PM

            How about Carlos Quieroz? Familiar with US Soccer, frequently credited for Ferguson’s adjustment in tactics during the Champions League and isn’t going to get a job at a high level due to his inability to be a manager and his issues with the Portuguese federation.

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            • Posted by dth on 2011/08/01 at 3:25 PM

              He’s getting petrodollars to coach Iran. Also, I’m suspicious of the tactical ability of anyone who turns a team with Ronaldo, Nani, Coentrao, Raul Meireles and Deco into a plodding, boring, staid unit.

            • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/08/01 at 4:16 PM

              Quieroz would be a decent candidate. You can’t hold a one coaching appointment against him.

              I’ve very interested to see how he does with Iran now that he has all the experience he has.

  4. Posted by Mike on 2011/08/01 at 9:42 AM

    Listened to US Soccer press conference for Klinsman. Overall I am feeling good about this hire, and it’s not just his “positive energy”. The main reason being, it is not just about the hiring of a new head coach of the Men’s National Team, but it is more about US Soccer as a whole. Main points that stood out were defining/developing a US style of play (briefly mentioned more proactive vs reactive), more emphasis to the youth system(working closely w/ Claudio Reyna and Tab Ramos), his willingness/need to get input from MLS and other coaches across the country for building his staff.

    In regards to the Bradleys, I concur w/ Matthew’s statements above for both.

    Of course, everything is talk so far. Interested to see player selection next week vs Mexico.

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  5. I’m looking forward to see what certain players can do under Klinnsman, in particular Torres, Bradley, Holden, Altidore, and Agudelo. I can’t think of a much better mentor for a young striker in particular than Klinnsman.

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  6. I sincererly hope that Klinsi is ready and capable of making the tough decisions that Bobbo looked like he was starting to do in the Gold Cup, especially with respect to his central midfielders. I’ve always held awkward sentiments towards Junior – when he’s on his game and does what the team needs him to do (not necessarilly what the coaching staff seems to have asked) he’s a great asset to us; however, he’s not always on his game, and we’ve rarely seen what a US midfield minus Baby Sweats looks like and whether it can be effective.

    I think this gamble is somewhat of a step in the right direction, so long as he (along with Claudio and Tab) can spearhead a change in the youth development like he did with Germany. My biggest concern is that his new-age methods that worked wonders for Germany were mainly based on ideas he saw in use over here, so the same magic won’t necessarilly work again.

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  7. Posted by dth on 2011/08/01 at 10:52 AM

    I see the conference was livestreamed, but does anyone have an archived copy?

    Reply

  8. What with all the talk about his ability to have a grand plan, doesn’t this seem problematic?

    Klinsmann was considered for the US job in 2006 and following the team’s elimination from last year’s World Cup in South Africa, but his intention to re-design the youth system was rumoured to get in the way of the deal. This desire, according to the German, seems to have changed, “I don’t have any intention to change the youth system,” he said. “Good things have been happening in recent years. Of course, we will discuss things and see where we can strengthen the youth system to make the entire US program stronger.”

    http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/news/newsid=1484897/index.html

    Also,

    When do they come together for the game? Seems quite the turn around for both players and new coach alike to adjust to. Also, is this going to be a legit A squad game for both sides or is it going to be a quasi-serious friendly for tinkering? I feel like Klinsy needs to get the win, against the rival in a grudge match given the last match was a cup losing game against them, in order to solidify any excitement around him.

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    • Posted by dth on 2011/08/01 at 11:46 AM

      In what sense do you mean problematic?

      There are two problems with assessing youth development in this country.
      1) What we do is look at national team members and current pros and assess what went wrong with their development. Unfortunately for that assessment, their formative years were often a decade ago. If things were unchanged since then, we could make a fair assessment which leads to problem two:

      2) There have been many changes, and the structure of youth development today is drastically different than it was even a year to two years ago. We won’t be able to even start making some concrete determinations until, say, five years from now.

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      • Posted by scipio on 2011/08/01 at 5:48 PM

        +1

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      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/08/02 at 6:23 AM

        Why 5 years from now? Can you not assess the technical ability of (for example) the U15s vs their peers? 8-14 is the age where these skills need to be developed, not during NCAA D1. The amount of times I hear that X is still young and has time to develop is insane, especially when X is 21 or older.

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    • Posted by Martin on 2011/08/01 at 2:47 PM

      donumdei,

      So what you are saying is the “Fire JK” movement starts on August 11th if we don’t wax Mexico, right ?

      By that honeymoon didn’t last very long did it?

      Reply

      • I don’t mean that at all. I just meant I’ve seen a lot of talk about his value coming from being “A grand visionary with big ideas about how to shake up a stale organization” (a la Texas 1836 above but also in general, at this site and others), specifically regarding our youth system especially. But here he is saying he has no intention to do so, at least in this regard. So I was simply wondering if that changed the perception of him at all since this appeared, to me, to be the negating of a much trumped aspect of having him in charge specifically.

        Regarding the Mexico game, I simply meant 1) it seems like a lot to do in a short time: prepare for the game, introduce a new coach who needs to get to know players, vice versa, and play not only a rival but a team we just lost too in a painful, public venue. I think that is a fair general observation.

        2) I imagine he, as any new coach or employee would, wants to put on a good performance in his first showing, especially since there are those fickle fans who will be predicting the worst if we lose. The win would seem to encourage whatever momentum he and the team might be gaining now, also a fair observation. Personally, I’d of course love the win but I think my first point shows that a loss wouldn’t be the end of the world, more so a reflection of how much is going to be packed into the next 9 days. I won’t consider “the honeymoon” over (I don’t really agree with the whole idea of one as much as being realistic all the time) but I think there are plenty of fans who would.

        By the way, you’re missing an “o” =P

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        • Posted by Martin on 2011/08/02 at 2:52 PM

          It should have read “boy”.

          If you go through JK’s interview you will note how he talks about taking the time to evalute everything , about not being in a rush to name his staff until he has had time to evaluate what is out there, etc.. “Do we have enough time to prepare for it properly? Maybe not.” regarding the Mexico game.

          It would be pretty foolish for anyone to read too much into the result of that game but I suspect many US fans will.

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  9. Posted by Arisrules on 2011/08/01 at 11:46 AM

    If it was up to me this would be my starting lineup:

    —————Jozy——————–
    —-Dempsey—-Bradley—–Donovan——
    ——–Jones—–Holden/Kleijstan—-
    WHOMEVER—–OH GOD—–WTFFF—-Cherundulo—
    —————-Howard————————–

    I’m not even going to guess our backline. I guess right now it is something like Lichaj—Boca—-Goodson—–Cherundulo. I have no clue. Ream and Omar Gonzalez really need to step up their game, because outside of cherundulo, I really don’t trust that back four (even if Lichaj was good at LB in the Gold Cup; Spector was good at RB at the Confederations Cup, but has been horrendous otherwise, maybe not a fair comparison, but what I am saying is that we have no proven players at this position, Lichaj could be it, or could have been a flash in the pan).

    Bradley excels at that free pressure role (actually something similar to what we see in the all star game, where Sharlie Joseph was really pressuring the opposition from an advanced position). Of course this lineup is dependent on Holden being healthy, and being able to support Jones from a deeper position. If not, maybe Kleijstan? Maybe Beckermann whose game has developed significantly over the past 2 years.

    Either way this is a huge gamble. Maybe Klinsmann revolutionizes the youth development aspect of this. I don’t know. People are banking on that, but it isn’t clear to me why Klinsmann would be able to do this, given that he has very limited experience.

    The future is going to be strange, and uknown. That is exciting and scary, as Klinsmann could fail miserably.

    Reply

    • Posted by chazcar2 on 2011/08/01 at 1:25 PM

      Formation for this next mexico game only. Basically a modified MLS side based on the future. Let the youth see mexico at game speed.

      Shea—–Bunburry—–Donavon
      —–Bradley—Kljestan—–
      ———-Torres——–
      Convey–Ream–Gonzalez–Franklin
      ——–MLS Keeper——–

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      • Posted by Steven on 2011/08/01 at 3:54 PM

        Bunbury? Really? Bunbury has all of three goals this year. He fell by CJ Sapong in KC depth chart.

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        • Posted by dth on 2011/08/01 at 6:56 PM

          Actually…four goals. His goals per 90 of .39 is not bad, too.

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          • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/08/01 at 11:48 PM

            That’s a pretty good number, but a small number of observations, especially when you consider that two came against a porous, discombobulated Whitecaps defense.

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      • Posted by scipio on 2011/08/01 at 5:50 PM

        That back line will see a lot of speed up close… and a lot of Mexico goals

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  10. Posted by Crow on 2011/08/01 at 12:34 PM

    It’s 3:30 ET. Do you think US Soccer could get some quotes or something posted on their site about this press-conference? My word.

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    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/08/01 at 12:40 PM

      I think US Soccer is giving a little bit of a first look to ESPN. Running him on SportsCenter etc.

      Makes sense from their standpoint given ESPN’s investment in the sport.

      That would be my guess.

      Reply

      • Posted by scipio on 2011/08/01 at 5:52 PM

        If anything, I hope ESPN invests more. For all their weaknesses as a legitimate journalistic source, they have unparallelled production value and distribution to a wide soccer audience. FSC makes me want to puke at times, especially the pregame coverage of that champions league final *shudder*

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  11. Posted by Jake C on 2011/08/01 at 1:28 PM

    A word or two about your choice of vocabulary in the title:

    I wouldn’t say that “substance” is the category in which Bradley trumps Klinsmann, at least so far as the term applies to results. As you noted, the w-l-d stats for Bradley are a bit skewed when you factor in the games played against non-CONCACAF opposition.

    A team’s style can greatly contribute to their “substance.” A case in point would be Spain, who certainly has their share of victories in the modern era, but so much of their greatness lies in the aura surrounding them that is defined by their style, the attacking philosophy that is the hallmark of the national team and Narcelona (let alone La Liga as a whole).

    All that to say, I think the USMNT can become a much stronger team now that they seem set to adapt a more definitive style with Klinsmann. None of this spiel contradicts anything you said; just my two cents I guess.

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  12. Posted by Doug S on 2011/08/01 at 2:04 PM

    I think one of the best things about making this kind of change is that we get a fresh take on player selection. Not that Bradley’s choices consistently bad, but maybe there is something better out there just waiting to be called up.

    I hope klinsmann can find a better striker than altidore before 2014.

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  13. I can’t believe Bob Bradley was fired. He didn’t seem like a bad coach to me.

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  14. Posted by Gino on 2011/08/01 at 3:49 PM

    Intriguing bullet point about Dempsey, Donovan and Coach Bradley. Clint definitely has stepped up with the National Team and outshone Landon. That said, Klinsmann has shown a fondness for Donovan in the past and dropped his name more than once in his post-hiring ESPN interview. Whether JK moves one to forward or keeps them both on the flanks, I believe they’ll both figure prominently in his plans for this cycle. Maybe Jurgen’s most important choice will be if he chooses to have a central playmaker in the midfield to feed LD and CD or whether the attack emphasizes width.

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    • Posted by Jake C on 2011/08/01 at 5:17 PM

      I’ll be interested to see what he does with that duo. Matt rightly pointed out that Clint has been the go-to guy recently, but Klinsmann has vocally supported Donovan given their mutual (negative) experiences at Munich.

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  15. Posted by Joe on 2011/08/01 at 7:13 PM

    Bradley is a stud, theres no question. I consider him to be the “get dirty” guy who goes unappreciated. His battery mate in the MF is non-existent, ex. Jones and Edu. They are awful compliments to his game. Hopefully, Bradley and Stu (real future stud) get to play next to each other. In fact, a 4-3-3 seems like the best way to get everyone in the right position. Bradley being the CM with the most off/def responsibility, Holden pushing forward and possibly Spector the ghost getting some time? Hopefully JK re-evaluates what he’s got and gets rid of the clown Bornstein. Let me see some playmakers.

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    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/08/01 at 11:43 PM

      Michael Bradley is a very good player. He’s getting much better at playing smarter.

      But he is not an offensive catalyst.

      Take a look at the 2nd half of the Mexico game and against Panama–and it is the opponent who reveals the most about Bradley’s limited offensive arsenal *on the ball.

      *Both teams sloughed off him and actually let him penetrate knowing–through no fault of his own since it’s not his skill set–that he could not create in possession. Teams did not do this with say Clint Dempsey in the Gold Cup.

      Bradley was the best passer at the Gold Cup. The only problem was most of his passes went backward.

      He’s an excellent player and I hope to see him actually up the field in a box-to-box/advanced pressure role with a holder behind him OR with an offensive catalyst ahead of him and him cleaning up like Jones did.

      I always felt it odd that the US played with Bradley advanced with Jones behind him at the GOld Cup.

      Jones is an injury machine and older. Bradley did an excellent job funneling, but don’t you want the younger, less injury prone player to destroy things?

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  16. Posted by Antonio H. on 2011/08/01 at 7:42 PM

    Great write up but hasn’t bob’s tenure embodied the American modus vivendi throughout history?: no matter how you do it or how nasty it is, get the job done. Fitting. Now I wonder what the German version is…

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    • Posted by Tux on 2011/08/01 at 10:39 PM

      Keep working on the same thing over and over until you get it right – then move onto the next thing.

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  17. Posted by Ufficio on 2011/08/01 at 8:03 PM

    With all the German-born prospects/current contributors to the USMNT, I wonder if “nationalist favoritism” won’t be become the new nepotism charge if Klinsmann comes to rely heavily on German-American players.

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  18. Posted by DougS on 2011/08/01 at 8:52 PM

    I have to take issue with your tone and labelling of Bradley as bunker-oriented. I don’t think Bradley played a single style — he played more than one style and adjusted it based upon who he was playing and who he had to call upon. It is revisionist history and overly simplistic analysis to suggest that he only had a single style and that style was to bunker down and counter attack.

    Bradley should be given great credit for the following — 1) he brought a tremendous work ethic to the team. There was never a game that they were not prepared for or for which they had not intimately scouted the other team. Much of this credit goes to his staff, but I have no doubt it was a top-down ethic. 2) He always had a well-thought out game plan and usually a back-up plan. If his plan did not work immediately, he made adjustments that usually, although not always, were enough to get the result. 3) He sought out and brought a lot of players into the fold and was continuing to do so. It was under Bradley, remember, that dual-nationality players like Jones, Chandler, Torres, Castillo, Adu, Bunbury, etc. CHOSE to play for the USA. If they did not respect Bradley and his approach to the team, they could have gone elsewhere.

    I will reluctantly admit that a change in coach was perhaps needed to remotivate the team and, perhaps even the coaching staff. I will also admit that Michael Bradley may do better not playing under his father and as I think Michael has the potential to become the best player on the team, I am all for helping him along.

    But the media, including respected blogger like TSG, need to be more respectful and appreciative of all that Bradley did for our team and what a great coach he is. Count me as one of the skeptics that think that anyone, even Klinsmann (who I have high hopes for) will find it easy to fill his shoes.

    Reply

    • Posted by CJ on 2011/08/01 at 9:32 PM

      I’ll have to give you a few cheers for the pride and appreciation you show our former head coach. I think that’s commendable and in a lot of ways against the tide of negative sentiment. Bradley brought a lot of optimism and potential to game day yet, when the result didn’t turn in our favor, the sour taste in our mouth of a defeat was all we were left to comment on. In some ways I find Bob to be an excellent coach and tactical mind, in others I also find him to be guiding the team down a railroad track with little deviation left or right from the overall Bradley gameplan. And this is where I must contesf one of your points.

      I often found Coach Bradley to be benign on the sideline. He put all his effort into preparation and when the resulting tactic failed to achieve the effect it was deployed for he waited. And waited. And waited. From my couch and anyone else I talked with we all knew, better even we all felt, when the game needed a burst of energy, a change, a substitution, our leader, our coach, was standing on the sideline stoic, doing nothing. It was frustrating to watch. I can’t name games but I’d say I saw this happen at least 6 times in the past year and a half alone.

      So for me, thank you Bob for preparing this team to be mentally hard to break. Now I hope Jurgen Klinsmann can bring a more emotional, motivating, seize-the-moment aspect to our beloved club.

      Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/08/01 at 11:37 PM

      Doug.

      Not one single style. But with more offensive weapons at his disposal actually that defensive ones. Bradley often choose to defend the fort against proper sides like Argentina and Spain.

      Instead of dictating the games, the US often got dictated to.

      Oddly enough I had a conversation with a member of US Soccer after the Gold Cup. We agreed that Bradley tried to play offensively in the first game against Panama and Panama was extremely disciplined and the US (we differed*)…the US I thought ill prepared to play an offensive game.

      In the 2nd game, Bradley and Dely Valdes (a fantastic up-and-coming coach who will be coaching in La Liga in 3 years in my opinion) both sat there seeing who would flinch and break shape.

      Panama did and the US scored. However, that game was perfectly acceptable play for Panama–they were not nearly as talented as the States. For the US, they were ill prepared to dominate a weaker team.

      The above is not revisionist history.

      On your 3 points. On 1) Question: There were plenty of games where the US was ill-prepared. Case in point Game 1 against Panama. Ghana, Slovenia. (Slovenia is a definite). I often shudder when folks bring up Bob Bradley’s work ethic. Have you ever heard of a somewhat successful coach who *did not* work hard. Bradley is given more credence for his work ethic simply because he was a stoic character in my opinion.
      On 2) Disagree. Bradley’s subs were nearly always scripted on his account. That does not mean he reacted to what was on the field.

      On 3) Completely agree Bradley was very good about this. However, he can be faulted for not bringing in Lichaj in the 2010 cycle. For not bringing in Bobby Convey. And for not playing someone other than Onyewu–not fully recovered–in a World Cup. That is still somewhat incredulous.

      My job by the way–in my mind–is not to be respectful. It’s to be objective and I actually think I nailed it on this one. :> (Agree to disagree.)

      Reply

    • Posted by Jared on 2011/08/02 at 4:28 AM

      I would argue that his teams where not prepared most of the time in the past couple of years after Nowak left. How many early goals did the US concede? I know a lot of Bradley apologists try to place that blame on the players but a decent portion of that blame has to be on the coaching staff. There were also a lot of times when the US played down to their opposition and struggled against teams that they should be beating with ease.

      I’m not going to give a guy credit for being hard working. This isn’t little league baseball. Working hard is the bare minimum for being a head coach.

      In terms of getting the players to choose the US over another country, I’m not sure he should get a lot of credit for those guys. Most of them were not going to play for their other options. Jones was never going to play for Germany, Castillo and Torres would have been fringe players for Mexico at best, Chandler apparently still isn’t in the plans for Germany even though he’s had a solid season in the Bundesliga. Also, from a lot of what I’ve read it was Thomas Rongen who was responsible for scouting out dual national players. He also has to be dinged a little for bringing those guys in and then hanging some of them out to dry. Torres was interviewed recently and said that he hadn’t even heard from Bradley since the World Cup. Putting Mexican-American players in for a few games and then not speaking to them for a year isn’t going to help the cause of recruiting dual nationals going forward. If you were Bunbury would you choose a country that makes the World Cup consistently (USA) or one that doesn’t (Canada)?

      All that being said, he deserves credit for getting some good results but then following it up with poor results. The US defeat of Spain is overshadowed for me for the way the US blew a 2 goal lead against Brazil.

      Reply

  19. A guy close to the Akron team has told me that Caleb Porter was a name thrown around for the USMNT job at some point already, actually. I don’t believe him for a second, for the record, but does anyone think maybe he can be the X&0 guy?

    Frankly I don’t, given the competition he actually sees tactically in NCAA, but it’s a thought I guess.

    Reply

  20. Posted by kaya on 2011/08/02 at 12:06 AM

    I just watched the press presentation and I sure hope that the line about having all this time to assemble staff and the possibility of guest assistant-coaches is just a huge bluff. If the upside of having a foreign coach is that he’s been here 13 years and knows the system… well, he better well have someone in mind.
    The conference didn’t impress me, so I’m hoping all these claims about Klinsi only being a big-picture/style guy is overdone. His vision didn’t seem particularly distilled. I really expected him to come across as having already put a lot of thought into this and I didn’t. I look forward to him proving me wrong.

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/08/02 at 4:20 PM

      I am not sure what you expected him to say to be 100% honest with you. Bradley was just fired last week, and we don’t know exactly when Klinsmann was offered / excepted the job. Did you expect him to have his Dream Team and Master Plan worked out just in case he got the job? I am sure he has a better plan than he alluded to during the press conference in order for the USSF to court him in the first place. Just give him time to reach out to people, to see if they’re even interested in becoming part of the US Management Team.

      He has a vast network of people in world football, and it would be silly for him not to talk to them before outlining his final plan – especially people who have been involved with national teams where the majority of their players do not ply their trade in that country’s domestic league. Would be extremely interesting to hear how Bradley and Arena set up their teams, and exactly how Klinsmann’s differs, and why [although highly unlikely].

      I just think that too many people, are expecting too much, far too soon. The ik hasn’t even dried on his contract and people are bleating already.

      Reply

  21. [...] Op-Ed: On Bradley-Klinsmann: Does Style Trump Substance? [...]

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