TSG will be doing quite a bit of “Bob Bradley review” in the coming days and weeks. As a publication, we’re not quite ready to issue our “New York Times editorial” on what the verdict on Bob Bradley’s current tenure is or who should be coaching the Yanks in a few months.
We kick off our Bob Bradley review coverage with a TSG chat among our frequent writers: Shaun, Tuesday and Brian.
I’ll play moderator and this is just the beginning of sussing out expectations and evaluation of Coach Sweatpants. Drop your comments below and we’ll issue more as we continue to review the past four years of “The Life of Bob.”
Bob Bradley (2006-?): Victorious? (photo courtesy of Matt Mathai)
Matthew: Okay — for those reading on TSG, the writers of TSG wanted to appropriately discuss the “Bob Bradley situation.”
How did he do? Did the team meet expectations? What does the future hold?
Matthew: First question, did Bob Bradley do a good job? Explain and offer data points.
Brian: When you look at Bob Bradley’s performance over the course of this cycle, the man did a good job. The results speak for themselves: when using the full USMNT, the team won the 2007 Gold Cup, beat Spain and narrowly lost the 2009 Confederations Cup, won CONCACAF World Cup qualification, and won their group in the World Cup.
Bob Bradley embraces Ricardo Clark after "The Substitution."
Mister Tuesday: By Saturday, Bob Bradley almost had me convinced. Then he did what was obviously total madness in all eyes but his. After two very solid Edu performances that seemed to earn him a starting spot, he went back to Clark.
Shaun: I thought he did a good job. I think he got the most out of a squad and made them a team. The exact opposite of what Capello did. Individually, England’s players could be rated better but they couldn’t play together as a team, where as the US masked their faults to a degree with good team work and unity.
• He picked the right 23
• He installed a flexible system so that the USMNT could change shape and formation pretty effortlessly without exposing themselves.
• He recognized when he made mistakes and changed them as quickly as possible. So many mangers keep trying when they fail and end up making things worse.
• Poor tactical choices cost him important sub options late in game from having to rectify mistakes.
• Not tough enough. I don’t much about him but he seems to play favorites, hence Clark starting etc…
Brian: Bradley had to do a lot of revamping of the squad he inherited in 2006. The entire spine of the team, forwards, center midfielders, center halves, and goalie all needed to be replaced. Bradley wasn’t afraid to go with more risky players: a nepotism-inducing pick of his son, using an 18-year old Jozy Altidore and unheralded Charlie Davies. The U.S. did not get an influx of talent these last four years, they became a better organized and grittier team.
Matthew: Brian, Sweats nearly had to be talked into Altidore. He admonished him after his first camp.
Mister Tuesday: If this was a “one-time mistake” sort of situation that would be one thing, however it was yet another of his impenetrable decisions. Bob has gotten very good at finding solutions within games, but he struggles to see how things will play out beforehand.
Shaun: 100% agree Tuesday.
Mister Tuesday: That said, he was a win away from being widely seen as the most successful USMNT manager ever.
Landon moving to left wing set the tone (courtesy, Matt Mathai)
Matthew: Did Bob Bradley do a good job? Yes. He did. A few data points stick out in my head. First, keeping a team together after the first two losses and reaching a Confederation Cup final. Following that up with a title run in Gold Cup 2009 with “B” or “C” level players again. Solid. Beyond this Bradley–like a true American ethos coach–had the team buy in. Landon Donovan moving to left wing set the tone. If you get the leaders to buy-in and make sacrifices, the rest of the team follows.
That said Bradley showed a “limited” technical ability and made the same mistakes multiple times. You don’t see that with Jose Mourinho, for example.
And the big “However.” The Yanks were done in this World Cup by not finishing their chances up top less the tactical decisions from limited quality.
Shaun: (to Tuesday)…but a couple of minutes away from being seen as a failure. It’s a brutal job and thankless.
Mister Tuesday: Let’s just look at Bob’s accomplishments: 2007 Gold Cup Champions to qualify for the Confederation’s Cup. Blooded a new group of players in going 3 and out at that year’s Copa America (and evoked the ire of CONMEBOL). 2009 Confederation’s Cup and Gold Cup finalists with 2 completely different player pools.
Bradley did well with the players he had at his disposal but he also made some mistakes in handling things. A lot of time that could’ve been used to give potential first-team combinations potential time together was devoted to selecting players at the fringes that played little to no role in South Africa.
Gulati: Backing BB still?
Matthew: Sunil Gulati stated that the Yanks failed to meet expectations. He made a veiled comment that Bradley would be reviewed without a vote of confidence while saying that the players were not off the highest caliber. Who bears the brunt of the failure to advance in the World Cup? The coach or the players?
Shaun: I think it depends on the situation. It’s never 100% players or coach. In this case I would have to say its a 65% BB and the rest the players. They made mistakes on the field that they should have done better with. It’s not the coach’s fault that a lot of them have poor ball control. But it is up to him set up the team so those errors are few and far between. Edu is more confident, more experienced and more comfortable on the ball. Clark should never have been involved.
Brian: I put about 70% of the blame on the players. There was a clinical lack of finishing from the entire team and some fundamental errors in marking from the center-halves. Bradley did make a couple of line-up mistakes, but you could also say he reacted better to fix a team mid-game than any other manager this World Cup.
Matthew: Tough one here. I have to put more of the blame on Bradley. It was Bradley’s choice to get Onyewu ready through the friendlies and not develop chemistry between DeMerit and Boca or DeMerit and whomever. That was a miscalculation.
It was Bradley’s choice to rotate central midfielders which is always a challenge to developing chemistry and continuity.
And it was Bradley’s choice to bring Buddle at forward and not play the hottest net-finding striker, especially when the Yanks couldn’t finish. That decision is still mind-boggling to me.
On the field, Bradley beat an Algerian side that should have been beaten. He drew a Slovenia side that should have been beaten and in retrospect a draw was probably fair against England. I have through an asterisk because with some correct calls Bradley likely beats Slovenia and has an easier time with Algeria–so noted.
And….if the US has strikers that can finish a shot. We’re discussing Uruguay right now, not Bob Bradley–so maybe I’m off on the blame game. But I did mention that Buddle seems to know how to finish.
Shaun: Bradley was not responsible for the US missing the goals (though his choices did help create them by utilizing Dempsey and Donovan wide etc…) but his tactics, player selection etc… were partly responsible for all the goals that were given up.
Buddle, a missed opportunity of itself? (courtesy, Matt Mathai)
Mister Tuesday: The USA were one of the brighter attacking teams at the World Cup, but were also one of the worst defensive teams. Across the back four Bob Bradley was limited by the players he had at his disposal. We could second guess his inclusion of Beasley over a young player like Bedoya, but the reality our central defensive pairing consisted of a defender plays for a mid-table Championship side.
Our best striker played last season for a relegated Premiership side and managed 1 league goal. Altidore wasn’t any more threatening for the national team.
Mister Tuesday: Findley, Buddle and Gomez all had their own opportunities. I think Bob made a mistake replacing Altidore with Gomez rather than Buddle, but Ghana’s winning goal came so quickly that it hardly mattered.
Brian: The only thing I can criticize Bradley for roster-wise is not giving more of a shot to America’s young defenders. You have to think that Omar Gonzalez and Eric Lichaj might have made an impact for team so thin at the back.
Shaun: The USA are a counter attacking team as they don’t have the skill to hold the ball up and pass it amongst each other back and forth waiting for an opportunity.
When they counter and it is successful it is always the same 3-4 players who are involved versus 7-8 who can starts, orchestrate or finish those moves.
Bradley deserves credit for setting up the USMNT to work that counter.