[MY VIEW] Bob Bradley indeed wasted a valuable opportunity against Brazil last Tuesday at the New Meadowlands. By fielding a squad of mostly regulars, he squandered a great chance for the USA to be humiliated.
Let’s review: Sellout crowd of more than 77,000, against Brazil, on national TV, in the USA's first game in the new stadium, with a day or so for the Americans to travel, recover from weekend games or preseason training, and face a young but very talented cross-section of the world’s greatest and most glorious tradition of teams and players. Go young and brave and go for it! Yeah, that’ll work.
Send out your young and inexperienced and unproven, and watch them wet the bed. It defies all logic to ponder, much less believe, that the ranks of those uncapped or rarely capped, or better yet an U-20 squad, was the way to go. But there are plenty of fans and purported pundits who claim that to be the case.
Hot off that huge – excuse me – massive win in the Milk Cup, our U-20s would teach those pouty Brazilians a few things, right? Please. Remember what happened when Brazilian club Santos sent its teenage team to help New York open its new stadium? The Red Bulls stampeded their foes.
How would a mix of fringe national team players and blossoming U-20s have fared? I can just see Gabe Agbossoumonde throttling Alexandre Pato! Actually, no, I can’t.
Never mind that any competent coach or executive or technical director or person of relative sanity would unequivocally state the best way to “blood” (British word) young players in a new environment is to sprinkle them into a competitive lineup. Throwing them en masse into a harsh, daunting situation is the best way to crush their confidence; if most or all of them are overmatched, how can they possibly do anything but fail, and probably fail miserably?
Forget the current U-20s, the crop of players who competed in Canada three years ago – and reached the quarterfinals – is still wedging its way into the senior team. Aside from Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, we’re still waiting.
This doesn’t mean Bob Bradley is the perfect choice to take on another four-year cycle. He will have offers from MLS teams or could snag a proposal from a second- or third-tier national team. But an EPL club like Fulham or Aston Villa? Not likely. He hasn’t played nor coached in England, and outside of the biggest clubs, foreigners with no English coaching or playing experience are uncommon. If you haven’t been there, it’s tough to get there. Steve Nicol, Paul Mariner or Frank Yallop would be more likely candidates than Bradley, despite his keen acumen for the workings of soccer in Britain and the continent. Rightly or wrongly, that’s just the way it is.
How many Spanish clubs have come calling for Bradley since that spectacular defeat of Spain last summer in the Confederations Cup? Was Bruce Arena besieged by European teams after his 2002 World Cup exploits? Arsene Wenger has signed a new contract with Arsenal, but if his future was in doubt, would former MLS deputy commissioner and club CEO Ivan Gazidis stake his team’s future on Bob Bradley?
Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner may be American, but the Villa board isn’t, and the board runs the club while Lerner signs the checks. As is the case when any high-profile coaching job opens up, agents and representatives put forth the names of their clients to be considered; such was the case for Bradley in both the Fulham and Villa situations. In industry parlance, he was “presented,” whereas a more apt term would be “dangled.”
Somehow Bradley rose in the cyberworld to be the top candidate for both positions and by one account resigned from the U.S. team after the Brazil game to take the Villa job. I can assume he might have addressed the possibility that if a replacement is hired before the next round of matches in October, the Brazil game was indeed his last in charge. But that’s not quite the same as resigning.
One possible candidate can be eliminated: Argentine Marcelo Bielsa, who has been retained by Chile, which reached the second round in South Africa under Bielsa’s guidance. There are certainly men who can upgrade the U.S. team and the program, but they will have to want the job very badly to be any good at it.
The U.S. performance against Brazil, after the first 15 or 20 minutes, disappointed a lot of people, me included. There aren’t any excuses and games like this are painful reminders that our best players have their mediocre days, or worse.