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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(Defensive team interlude)
Shaun: Brian – so much of defense though is knowledge and experience. I don’t think younger players wouldn’t have helped the back line.
Brian: Shaun, all I know is that when you look at what Jonathan did to the USA against Ghana, a young, hungry, athletic defender can make an impact.
Shaun: yes but one who has been part of the side the whole time…its not about age but about experience.
Matthew: Okay, so what’s next for the States and Bob Bradley? Exit stage right, re-uppance, wait and see? Play Sunil Gulati.
Mister Tuesday: Bob will be manager for the next two friendlies, but should be looking for a new challenge. Perhaps he’ll be the first American manager to go to Europe.
If I’m Sunil, I’m looking hard at our approach to player development. The “skim the best talent” approach has taken us as far as it is going to and if USA soccer needs to take the next step, the quality of coaching must improve in the important developmental age groups – 12-17 year olds. We also must cast a wider net for talent. If we’re looking to possibly win the next World Cup we host – 2018 or 2022 we need to start now.
Shaun: The States must play as many competitive games or tournaments as possible. The Confed Cup was a big step based on the competition. Sending an “a” “b” or “c” to Copa America was stupid and not participating in the 2011 is asinine.
Going to these tourneys where you play high level is a great way to for young players to gain experience. Imagine what Gonzales, Bornstein etc… get from having to deal with Messi, Miacon, Sanchez etc…
Mister Tuesday: If I’m Sunil, I encourage Bob to take a break from this gig. Junior’s performance has ranged from poor to immense this World Cup but a manager with less vested interest in his success might feel more flexibility in constructing the side. Michael also has a surprising lazy streak where he over-runs the play and instead of a lung-busting run to get back in position, he gives up.
Sunil should be examining other options, but Bob will remain on speed dial.
Shaun: Go and get experience for 10 years or so managing in Holland, Germany, England and then come triumphantly to lead the USMNT. Go out on a high and then come back on one too.
Mister Tuesday: Exactly, Bob is a good manager and has a chance to become a great one if he grows in his job. He should be looking for that opportunity.
Brian: I think to start, the job is Bob Bradley’s if he wants it. The man’s performance and deep knowledge of the American talent base earns him the right to remain the manager.
If he leaves, then it starts to get interesting. Jurgen Klinsmann is the obvious choice and I would be a fan, but I have concerns of his ability to identify the hidden gems of the system ala Charlie Davies, and also integrate younger talent. There are some other decent options out of MLS in Sigi Schmid and Dom Kinnear, but names always seem to come out of the woodwork for these things.
We could also always follow the model of Germany and Argentina and hire a 90’s national hero to manage the squad.
Shaun: Hiring a hero is only good when you have a team of very good players (Argentina this year)
I think the US need to get a coach of the Hiddink variety. Spend the money. Klinsman is okay and has mixed reviews but I think you need someone who not only can get the best out of players but also can spot talent at all levels.
Mister Tuesday: Bob has done well, but scratch the surface, it’s not as good as it appears. We were supremely lucky to get out of our group with only 3 points at the Confederation’s Cup to even get a chance to face Spain.
We won the group at the World Cup, but due largely to a pretty poor performance by England.
Shaun: yeah… he’s good but not sure if he’s what you need. You want someone with international football experience
Matthew: While Bob Bradley did more an admirable job in getting the Yanks to the second round, I think the program screams for a coach whose methods are already tested–if only because–like Jose Mourinho or Phil Jackson–the players and perhaps more importantly the management and fans have no excuse but to buy-in and accept a method that has borne a championship before.
I also agree with Tuesday. The father-son issue–which also reared it’s head for Slovakia with Vladamir Weiss’s benching of his son–exacerbated by his son’s important role in central midfield, is extremely unfortunately a distraction. No nepotism, but an unnecessary distraction.
The States, I think at this point, need a coach with the pedigree of winning at the highest level to drive the program for four years.
That said, I would also say that the US developed a style of play more in this four years than in any before.
Mister Tuesday: Between 2009 and 2010, we simply traded fantastic first half performances for fantastic second half performances.
Matthew: Okay, before we go on to possible successors. Will Bob Bradley stay? And if not, who’s doing will it be?
Mister Tuesday: I don’t think we need a Klinsmann though – his methods worked fine with technically proficient German team but will “go out and enjoy your football” do very well with our side?
Shaun: I say no and he will choose to move on. (this is what he should do)
Brian: I think Bradley goes on his own accord. I think he realizes that he’s better off trying to strike a club job while the iron’s hot than let his stock simmer for the next four years. If this were a European side I would say he stays for another two years and tries to win a European Championship, but there’s likely no outs for him if he extends that aren’t caused by poor performance.
Mister Tuesday: I don’t think Bob will stay. I think it’ll be a mutual agreement. Bob has a positive legacy and has generated a great deal of good will in US and international soccer.
Shaun: Sunil threw Bradley under the bus. Bradley should move on to somewhere where he will be treated better.
Mister Tuesday: The decisions made in the wake of this World Cup will determine whether we become a legit contender in our lifetimes or stay at about the same level.
Shaun: I think changes have to start with the MLS. Having them ignore international friendly dates etc.. is just preposterous. It’s not going to make anyone take it seriously.
Having it grow in quality will help the younger US players gain experience at club level at home. Sure the best players will play abroad but they face better competition from younger players at home.
Matthew: I think Bob–who lamented some of the player pool he had to select from–will likely depart believing he maximized the talent and his disposal. He *nearly did.
No reason to say here when the next true evaluation point for your work is 4 years away. It doesn’t make sense for Bradley.
I think Gulati–who never really wanted Bradley in the full-time role–wants to go in another direction and make a splash. Like he did in 2006. That said. It’s a dangerous way to go because if a coach like Guus Hiddink (employed) or Luis Scolari — kidding — can’t get more out of the team then what does it’s say about the US talent level?
So highly pressured next few steps for Gulati. And perhaps a little bit of “the devil you don’t know.” Is the United States ready for the top-of-the-line, cream-of-the-crop Coach? Is soccer growth?
Matthew: Who should the next coach of the States be?
Shaun: TSG – all 4 of us
Mister Tuesday: I’ll probably be looking for a new job after this World Cup.
Shaun: Someone with International experience but not just a mercenary. Some who has an interest in the US not just doing it for money. Klinsmann is the only one who seems to fit the bill though.
Mister Tuesday: I’m terrified of Klinsmann.
Shaun: Me too
Shaun: Someone who would be really good might be Gerard Houllier.
He developed the French team of 98.
His managing skill are well suited as he is strict but friendly.
Tactically though…he’s ok but no Mourinho.
Mister Tuesday: In a few years once Mourinho gets tired of Madrid, I’m sure Sunil could sell him on the chance to go down as the chance to prove himself the greatest manager in history by leading us to World Cup glory. Jose likes to prove himself a genius with a relatively sure thing though.
Shaun: His training skills and methods are well talked about.
Shaun: Yeah Jose likes for his job to be easy but take all the credit
Brian: To me there’s two clear men in the lead: Jurgen Klinsmann and Dominic Kinnear. Klinsmann would obviously add the international experience and prestige. Kinnear has done a fantastic job in MLS. He knows the domestic structure and is a former USMNT’er himself. When you look at his role in developing the likes of Holden, Clark, and Ching, his quality speaks for itself.
Mister Tuesday: From MLS, how about Steve Nicol? He’s gotten more out of less talent than any other MLS manager.
Shaun: A tough Scot! I like it.
Brian: I prefer Kinnear, because he’s done such a superior job in identifying and developing talent. Really doesn’t seem like the Revs have produced any great players since Deuce left.
Matthew: Here’s the challenge. Who can the States get? I’m not certain.
While there are many quality coaches in MLS–their overall exposure to players and tactics is limited by the league they are in. So to me, an MLS coach is out….for now.
If the States want an American coach, I see no better than Bob Bradley. Perhaps Bruce Arena, but obviously the history. (By the way, what does it say that no less than four players from the Galaxy could be in consideration spots in 2014 – Donovan, Franklin, Gonzalez, Bowen).
I need to take some time for coaches. A manager like Hiddink would have been ideal.
Perhaps in a year or two someone like a Louis Van Gaal who will be sick of club travel and the frequency of club dates and is not too egotistical to demand everything from the Federation.
Mister Tuesday: We need a tactician and someone that can stop us from conceding and has the reputation to interest the best of the young dual-nats. I could live with Houllier.
Shaun: He’s French though. Do you think the US can handle that? seriously?
Brian: Here’s what I would love to see: the two-man combination of Claudio Reyna and Klinsmann take over the system. Reyna can completely revamp the youth system and coaching, while Jurgen can focus more on the senior players. I think any foreign coach taking complete control of the system could be disastrous, but with an experienced US Soccer veteran like Reyna steering the ship, it could be a great development for the team.
Matthew: I’m completely unconvinced about Reyna with player development. Brian, what makes you a fan of Reyna’s player development? He has zero experience….
Mister Tuesday: Maybe Klinsy could teach Jozy how to make a near-post run. Maybe he can get the team to stop playing “scared to lose”. Maybe I can be tactical advisor. Or at least a technical guy that films matches from way above.
Shaun: Klinsy can certainly teach the players to dive more convincingly!
Brian: Having listened to interview with Reyna on his hiring, I got the feeling that he’s actively looking to increase the emphasis on skill in the youth system. Saying how he’s probably the most skilled player in our history, that means a lot.
Brian: Throwing this out there semi legitimately: John O’Brien for USMNT manager.
Mister Tuesday: Seconded. His blogs are pure genius.
Matthew: John O’Brien would definitely make a good coach with some work. Not a consideration for US coach at this time, but–and no stain on him–a better assistant “ready-today” than a Jesse Marsch I would think.
Brian: How about Alexi Lalas?