More than Bradley's future at issue

[USA] He will stay in South Africa until the World Cup concludes, and then U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati must deal with the complex issues involving his organization's most valuable property, the men's national team.

There's more to it than simply deciding whether to retain or dismiss national team head coach Bob Bradley, or who to replace him with. Bradley has compiled a respectable record, won some memorable games, instilled a sense of pride and spirit that infatuated a good portion of this nation, nurtured a few promising young players, and triggered virulent reaction at all points of the spectrum regarding his use of players, tactics, personnel, etc. Expectations of reaching the round of 16 were accomplished, but the squandering of an opportunity to go at least a step further can’t be ignored.

Bradley would certainly not admit that he’s taken the team as far as he can, as many critics have claimed. That’s not Bradley’s call, but in the next month Gulati will discuss with U.S. Soccer executives and his lengthy list of contacts in the soccer world much more than the future of Bradley. They and Gulati must ponder these vexing and intertwined questions: where is the state of the U.S. game, where does it go from here, and how does it get there?

Complex enough is the task of replacing Bradley, if that is the decision, with someone who can navigate the byzantine American soccer structure and achieve more with the national team. If all that someone had to do was pick the best available talent and hone it for international play, well, dozens of candidates would be lined up and the decision would be simply which one to choose and how much to pay him.

Of course, the precise role of the national team head coach can be tweaked to whatever Gulati, U.S. Soccer officials and the head coach himself want it to be. For about a decade, talk has swirled of a technical director, who would oversee all programs pertaining to the national teams. Ideally, the head coach and technical director would work together in many areas of player selection and development, technical and psychological aspects of training sessions, and integrate philosophies and concepts at all competitive levels of play.

But would one report to the other? Could both serve in equal but separate authority? Would they report directly to Gulati, or CEO/general secretary Dan Flynn, or the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors, or a national teams committee? How feasible is it to hire a head coach soon to start the new cycle as soon as possible, and then hire a technical director?

Is this the right time to restore the relationship with Juergen Klinsmann, wooed four years ago but ultimately discarded? Would ex-MetroStars coach Carlos Queiroz, who guided Portugal at the World Cup, again be considered? Dutchman Guus Hiddink is already employed as the coach of Turkey, but is there someone with many of the same credentials? Is there a viable domestic option in Sigi Schmid, Dominic Kinnear, Steve Nicol, Peter Nowak or Frank Yallop? Could Bruce Arena be enticed back into the fold, and if so, would it be the right move?

Gulati has striven to increase Hispanic representation on U.S. player rosters and national coaching staffs. Wilmer Cabrera, a native of Colombia, coaches the U.S. U-17s, and former U.S. international midfielder Claudio Reyna was appointed U.S. Youth Soccer Technical Director by Gulati in April. Will this philosophy have a bearing on the next national team head coach?

By rallying to tie England and Slovenia, and score in stoppage time to beat Algeria in a win-or-else showdown, the national team enchanted at least a few million Americans for the first time. In losing a daunting yet winnable game against Ghana, it drew a record TV audience while reminding those in the know that tenacity and spirit can’t indefinitely compensate for middling talent in a few positions.

Those four matches, set amid a colorful and controversial and historic first World Cup in Africa, served as a vivid reminder that by far the most visible property in U.S. Soccer is its men’s national team. The head coach is, at least publicly, the lead dog for a vast enterprise administered and guided by others. Including perhaps a technical director?

After the World Cup disappointment of 2006, a bit of pride and hope has been restored, but as any coach can tell you, the next jump – to being very good -- is dizzying.

29 comments about "More than Bradley's future at issue".
  1. Chaz Worthy, July 2, 2010 at 2:23 a.m.

    As a soccer fan absolutely satisfied with the US result, I hope these US Soccer honchos don’t wanna create an obsessive soccer culture of insane expectations here in America…Let’s face it, as any real football fans knows, one-off matches are 40% luck and even if our players were all elite footballers AND we won the WC, I don’t that our sports culture/media nor the public would give them their proper due
    …let is happen as it will…Affirmation via sporting triumphs is for insecure little countries…not us

  2. Terence Chu, July 2, 2010 at 4:53 a.m.

    I absolutely believe that BB has taken the team as far as he can. While the results were not bad, the US needs to develop a more tactically sound approach to the game emphasizing passing and movement rather than hit and hope. Bob will continue to produce adequate results, but it's better to start the next evolution of US soccer sooner than later, which is why we need a different coach for the next cycle.

  3. Gus Keri, July 2, 2010 at 8:04 a.m.

    The most successfl coaches in this world cup are the Argentines. Three Argentine coaches took their teams to the round of 16 (Argentina, Chile and Paraguay). I think the USA should hire an Argentinian this time. Marcelo Bielsa should be available.

  4. Christopher Holden, July 2, 2010 at 12:21 p.m.

    Complex enough is the task of replacing Bradley, if that is the decision, with someone who can navigate the byzantine American soccer structure and achieve more with the national team. If all that someone had to do was pick the best available talent and hone it for international play, well, dozens of candidates would be lined up and the decision would be simply which one to choose and how much to pay him. --- It is hard to believe you are paid to write that dribble. Get real. The expectations for the team were significantly higher. Nobody really thought the team wouldn't make it out of group C. And to lose to Ghana, again, really? The coach blew it. Sorry. He may be a great guy and all that nice stuff but he failed, and failure is not met with promotions in professional sports (unless you are Fabio Capello). BB, thanks for the thrills, you're fired!

  5. Hector Jordan, July 2, 2010 at 12:33 p.m.

    I think the USNMT needs more than a new coach and/or technical director; it needs to restructure the USSF federation, as it was evident somebody was pulling Bradley's strings for player selection during qualifications, and even during the World Cup,where Bradley wasn't capable enough to select a sound starting XI. It took him 2 games to realize Gooch wasn't fit and bringing in 4 unproven forwards and sticking with the wrong 2 for the 1st 2 games.His mistake was experimenting too much,even deep into the first round;and on the round of 16 gambling wrong with "fresh legs " Clark,where's evident someone up high kept interfering with the line up. Now it's amazing that in a country with thousands of great prospective players,we bring mediocre ones to a WC;this is evident even in the younger tournaments ,U-17,U-20,etc. The overhaul should start from the top,Starting with Gulati;it's time to relinquish the strings to someone more capable.

  6. N J F, July 2, 2010 at 1:07 p.m.

    Nice article. All-in-all I enjoy Ridge's articles; the inspired comments have been illuminating to me, too. Technical director? I think we have enough fluff positions in government without adding one more to our US soccer program, but what do I know? It is funny that BB has said the next USMNT coach will benefit from the work he did during the last four years. It sounds like he is trying to take credit (if there is any to be had) from the coach.... Already? He has struck me with a few comments like that (i.e. about "Redcardo" Clark after subbing him early, about his forward's impotence at the cup, blaming Davies's non-selection on the president of Souchaux - prompting Davies's public critique of the president etc. etc. etc.). It seems like BB will be moving on, yet it would be nice for some accountability from him. I think he should look at his own hand in and responsibility for our short lived cup run: instead of breaking his own arm patting himself on the back for our second round exit and "four years of progress." Thanks BB; the US has raised the bar, but sometimes "you gotta know when to fold em'."

  7. Joe Linzner, July 2, 2010 at 1:17 p.m.

    It is a good article and explores the deeper side of what it takes to build a good soccer team. I have never been a fan of Mr. Bradley but was always willing to give him a chance and he proved his mettle as far as he could. It is unfortunately a soccer tradition based on college experience and as can be seen that type of upbringing is rather shallow. The development of youthteams based on the AYSO tenet of everyone plays regardless of comportment will never develop outstanding talent. being involved in that organization since its very inception told me that it is a babysitting organization and not geared towards development, nor teaching and training.
    There will have to be a revised tenet of recruitment and development not simple from college ranks, but based on nationwide searches for hidden talent. It is out there. It simply must be located. similar to college recruitment systems in American Sports. Football, basketball come to mind.

  8. David Huff, July 2, 2010 at 1:21 p.m.

    A puff-piece article for USSF and Bradley hangers-on. We need Pekerman from Argentina (hurry before Japan steals him) or Klinsmann. Bradley, Gulati and Flynn need to go (i.e. either resign or be removed.

  9. David Huff, July 2, 2010 at 1:31 p.m.

    I can't believe you even brought up the name of the awful Bruce Arena, the guy who after WC2006 said it wasn't his job to win games at the WC but just to qualify to be there. Sounds like a drumroll for the MLS coaching constiturency is beginning to build again, didn't we learn anything from the Bradley and Arena hirings???? SA should stop being a USSF tool and provide real journalism with respect to the qualified candidatesa who are out there.

  10. Robert Rizzuto, July 2, 2010 at 2:14 p.m.

    If US Soccer is serious about "taking the next step" in the evolution of the USMNT, then it must be clear to them that BB has to go. I'll reiterate many of the opinions voiced in these discussions by pointing out his glaring errors in the roster against Ghana. He couldn't have made his mistakes any clearer, other than maybe broadcasting it over the stadium PA, when he pulled Clark after 30 mins and Findley at halftime. I don't want to go into all the details of his selections, but what does Feilhaber have to do to show that he should be starting??? BB has creative players available and doesn't know how to deploy them. We need a coach of the next level to bring the team to the next level. And SA, I have to agree with Ric Fonseca; you guys totally downplay the dissatisfaction that many US fans have expressed over BB. An objective and hard-nosed soccer media that holds our coach and team to the highest standards is a key component in ensuring that we do reach that next level.

  11. Steven SIegel, July 2, 2010 at 2:28 p.m.

    There is some interesting re-writing of history going on here. The US did not have a "short lived cup run." They got to the round of 16, which is about the best we had any right to expect. We were not any of the group leaders going in nor do we have anywhere close to the personnel of several other participants. Ghana was a strong side and even without Essein was considered to be the best of the African teams. They stood up very well to a German team that still needed to qualify.

  12. Wm. Olden, July 2, 2010 at 3:05 p.m.

    Interesting discussion, that being said, what I don't seem to be hearing is; if Bob Bradley is responsible for his 'failure'. And we define failure by what is perceived to be a lack of understanding by BB in terms of how to most effectively deploy his best players where and when needed. Then doesn't it beg the question that if BB is responsible for the USMNT's failure in 2010 WC then isn't Sunil Gulati just as cupible? Didn't Gulati hire the erstwhile Mr. Bradley, first an an interum 'stop gap' until someone of Klingsman's stature could be brought in to save us from Gulati's incompetence? If Bob has to go, then Gualti should be following him out the door as well.

  13. Robin Keef, July 2, 2010 at 3:40 p.m.

    I agree with Hector. Although my personal experience in soccer has been on the youth women's side, the issues he puts forth are mirrored there. Unfortunately, the entire youth program is fraught with inconsistency in development of foot skills, creativity, fitness, and strategic thinking. Select Club coaching ranks are filled with lower level coaches looking to gain a paycheck and free recruiting trips for their college teams instead of dedicated coaching professionals paid strictly to develop players to the next level. In addition, the game is diminished buy frequent parental use of dollars to influence rosters and positions at all levels. A mediocre talent with an influential parent is more likely to make a team or see the field than a top teir player without. Until the youth organizations take a long hard look at the skills and coaching of the top WC teams and decide to re-vamp the entire system, we will continue to wallow in mediocrity.

  14. Bob Ashpole, July 2, 2010 at 5:31 p.m.

    As long as USSF thinks that picking a different men's national team coach is a positive step toward winning a world cup, we won't make any progress. Also I am very disappointed that Mr. Gulati has painted our team's performance so negatively. It's counterproductive. Managers don't win world cups. Players do.

  15. Steven SIegel, July 2, 2010 at 6:11 p.m.

    Player selection is the most common criticism of any coach because strategy is more difficult to analyze. Mostly, it is wishful thinking to believe any significant positive change would come about 'if only he played x instead of y.'
    Well over 90% of the criticism on this board is of that kind - with nary a word said about strategy.

  16. Art Robles, July 2, 2010 at 6:13 p.m.

    But managers can lose World Cups by handcuffing the players by their ineptitude, which is what Bradley did. Get real.

  17. Timothy Mayo, July 2, 2010 at 8:42 p.m.

    Bradley is typicalof US soccer which is the lack of knowing how to attract and blend talent. Typical is the sense that his Son is the central medfielder which is typical daddy rec soccer. Bradley Jr played most of the WC out of position in an attacking mode with free range to do what ever he desired which left the Central midfield exposed throught out the WC. Many of the International commentators addressed this issues. Also, there is a notion that we have to improve by targeting "hispanic players" instead of tareting the best athletes like the rest of the world doe's which Brasil is a perfect example of how to simply target diverse talent form the Pele's to the Kaka's not with standing race or economics. We are the only soccer nation where we do not have the best athletic talent on the bench and even though Buddle's made the team he saw very little action which I believe he could have made a difference. So BB should be replaced with someone who has a broader vision of talent and not base a team on his own gene pool (Bradley Jr.) which show's the lack of vision and nepatism in the US soccer. Thus the US need's to widen it's reach and transend race, class and econimc's.Any open minded leader of the USMT that can accomplish that goal is welcomed. Net/Net we improved but with the athletic talent in the diverse USA we must and can do better!

  18. Steven SIegel, July 2, 2010 at 9:23 p.m.

    Timothy, I guess I see MB's performance differently than you do. I saw MB moving forward sparingly preferring many times to touch the ball and lay back in a protective mode. It also seems to me that there are other coaches in the world who have a good deal of respect for his game. He plays his professional soccer in the Bundesliga. So I think this 'nepotism' issue is questionable.

    Art, how did BB 'handcuff' the players? I'd like to hear more specifics.

  19. Ted Hartwell, July 2, 2010 at 11:35 p.m.

    Interesting comments from both sides. Strange to think that with a few inches better finishing in the last match, that would have been the U.S. playing Uruguay today. I personally think much of the criticism of BB is pretty harsh. A BB-led team made it to the finals of the Confed Cup and led a pretty good Brazil team by two goals before succumbing, and is one of only two teams to beat Spain in the past four years (the other being the Swiss in the current WC). True, everyone expected the US to make it out of its group, but I doubt many expected the US to win its group over England. Ghana is a very talented team that showed great creativity and deserved its spot not only in the quarterfinals, but in the semis, were it not for that blatant cheat by Uruguay on the final play of extra time. While I would have loved to have seen the US advance further, losing to a strong Ghana team was no disaster in my book.

  20. mara droga, July 3, 2010 at 3:26 a.m.

    wow!! alot of good comments here. of the american choices for coach, schmid doesnt sound bad. for international choice for coach, please consider benitez who ive heard is american and spanish, the uruguay coach i heear was the lowest paid coach in the world cup yet did much better than capello. bielsa?mmm...maybe.

  21. Andrew Post, July 3, 2010 at 10:37 a.m.

    Does anyone know what Chaz is talking about? "Affirmation from sporting triumphs is for insecure little countries"??? What does that mean exactly? So you are saying that winning is not all that important anymore? So what do you judge a team by, how hard they try? Are you one of those people who tell their child what a great game they have played and that they are still winners even though they lost 10-0 all they while building a false sense of accomplishment and setting them up for ultimate disappointment?
    Of course winning is important. Striving to consistently play at your peak and aiming for a win or accomplishment should always be the goal of every player and coach. To just be satisfied with playing hard and coming close does not support progres and in fact is counter productive.
    Winning is the motivation that keeps players interested in the sport. Even a youth team that loses every game season after season will lose interests and stop trying as hard. So this statement you make is rediculous. To say that the USMNT doesn't need to worry about winning is to sell them short and expect nothing of them. And in case you haven't noticed, the US culture has embrassed soccer more than it ever has and is being covered on the media like never before. Or perhaps US fans have enjoyed soccer all along and the media has not caught on.
    In either case, Bob Bradley has let fans, players and a program down. That Ghana game was arguable the most important soccer games in US history. Not because we have never been to the quarter finals, but because it would have caused a frenzy across the nation that has never been seen before. Garnering support for the game that would have boosted our nations level of interest higher than it has ever been. It would have shown to all Americans why soccer (or futbol) is the WORLDS sport, why this game is so beloved throughout the world: because it is a beautiful sport in which team work and individuality and creativness can all coexist on the field simultaneously. The United States was on the verge of making this sport more than just a recreational sport. This World Cup had far greater weight than previous Cups and to dismiss it and say "well you tried your best and that is an accomplishment in itself", fails to see the gravity of the situation.
    To be absolutely satisfied with the US result in South Africa sells our team, this sport, and our Country very very short.

  22. Mark Walker, July 3, 2010 at 12:15 p.m.

    Pretty simple. If you can't sell the national team to US youth players, who go on to play for Mexico, Serbia and Italy; if you can't keep track of national team players the night before a qualifying match, who barely survive the outcome of their own bad judgment; if you overplay a key player in a meaningless qualifying match, who then misses an entire season's worth of experience at a top Italian club, then, as a national team coach, you have failed. These are all part of the skill of managing talent in this game. Had Bradley managed any one of these challenges, the outcome for the US team would be drastically different. He has to go.

  23. karl ortmertl, July 3, 2010 at 3:07 p.m.

    The US has proven that it has a world class offense both in this World Cup and in the Confederations Cup last year. Donovan and Dempsey are world class. Altidore, Torres, Gil, among others give the offense a bright future. The defense, on the other hand, is poor, routinely giving away goals to nondescript teams. A lot of that is due to bad coaching. There isn't an American coach that understands proper defensive positioning at this level and how to impart that to his players. Candidates that I like are Hiddink, maybe Klinsman, maybe one of the Argentines (not Maradonna)

  24. Christopher Holden, July 4, 2010 at 12:12 a.m.

    Great comments Andrew Post. Thank you. Sorry Karl Ortmertl to say the US has a world class offense in this World Cup when our strikers did not score one single goal makes me wonder how low you set the bar. Is one assist in four games good enough for four strikers? Try selling that to the Germans - LOL.

  25. Robert Rizzuto, July 4, 2010 at 3:04 p.m.

    Steven, you're right that strategy is harder to analyze than player selection. And for the most part I don't have an issue with Bradley's strategy (other than, for example, his using a 3-4-3 formation in Costa Rica during Qualifying, which is a decision that's pretty hard to justify, to put it very mildly). But to say that there's very little chance of a significant positive impact by playing player y instead of player z is....ridiculous. Benny Feilhaber changed the game each time he came on, as one example. He had a clear, measurable impact on the game. And if you're saying that player selection is not a hugely important component of a coach's duties, just as important as his tactics, well- that's just absurd.

  26. Greg Williams, July 4, 2010 at 8:13 p.m.

    Gulati is just as culpable as BB. He is the one 'behind the scenes' influencing player selection, attempting to showcase the MLS. His dictatorial arrogance, assuming to know more than anyone else is more responsible than any other one factor involve in the USMNT. His inability to relinquish his death grip on the team is why Klinsman declined teh job...and Bradley was w illing puppet for the puppet master.Arena as a replacement...I would never watch the team again if the USSF hasn't got any more discernment than to go completely backwards and to repeat that travesty. I agree about the poster who said targeting Hispanics is ludicrous. The best players should be selected, even if theh happen to be silver spoon white boys. I despise the notion of political correctness being the determining factor. Why would we want to center around a group of people in this country that , for the most part , don't hold any allegiance to the US? This type of nonsense, which non-coincidentally is also the prevalent political BS that is taking this country into the dark ages, will ruin any chances of any future success. There were adequate players available...just most of them were either left behind(Heath Pierce, Robbie Rodgers for example) or left on the bench. Formation was not justly critiqued, just player selection....both were poor, and both are interrelated....and both show BB's lack of grasp of the international game. Get him out asap, and find a good internationally seasoned coach that can recognize talent and play a formation that centers around the players and their strengths rather than trying to force it with manipulation and over experimenting.

  27. John h Borja, July 5, 2010 at 12:31 a.m.

    You addressed the complexities of whether to retain or send off the Bradley. His son is impressive on the pitch. Honestly, I really had my doubts before the Cup.
    But before Gulati and gang address the coach, basic issues have to be addressed.
    Altidore, was "off" by a step and a half throughout the tournament. But, then, Rooney was off as well. Torres looks to getting benched. Here, we're only talking about one player. What really hurt the U.S. was the entire defense squad! We could have put the U18 defense squad and have done just about as well. Our defense had no stamina, no vision, no creativity, and no defense. This is basic. The other issue is diversity. We are a diverse nation and we need to represent that more fully on the squad. Specifically, we need a coach that understands what the various ethnic groups bring to the table and is able to work with them. Hispanics, for example, could have great positive impact for team. A person from Yale, I'm sorry, has a blind side. The new coach MUST be from the U.S.A. Klinsman should be recruited to help run U.S. soccer. His comments on the air were prescient.

  28. Ted Westervelt, July 6, 2010 at 3:03 p.m.

    Can they pay Klinsmann enough to keep his mouth shut about all the systemic problems?

  29. Brian Something, July 7, 2010 at 5:12 p.m.

    Although the senior national team is high profile, it's really window dressing. No coach will be able to take the US team to a serious run in the WC without improved youth development. And youth development in this country is so fractured and insanely parochial. It needs to be blown up in order to start over in a sane way.

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