Heavy now lays the crown on Sunil Gulati’s head, no?
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.
Was there more than a handful of matches during Bradley’s reign where you could say, ‘This one is in the bag’?”
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.
A positive result; yes.
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…
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.
• 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.