Is Bob Bradley already a lame duck?

By Paul Gardner

Over 77,000 fans to watch a soccer game. In the USA! And this was not a competitive game, merely a USA vs. Brazil exhibition game.

That was the situation Tuesday night in the splendid New Meadowlands Stadium. From the strictly soccer point of view, a glimpse of the announced rosters made it clear that we were, by and large, getting a U.S. team made up mostly of the players who were in South Africa, whereas the Brazilians were taking the opposite route, and bringing in a majority of new young players.

So, from the U.S. point of view this looked like a chance for U.S. fans to pay homage to a team that had done pretty well, certainly not disgraced itself, in South Africa.

Things started off brightly enough for the Americans. For the first 15 minutes it looked as though the USA was going to show the young Brazilians just who was who in this very American venue.

Then, almost suddenly, the character of the game changed . The Brazilians took over -- and remained in charge until the end. As the game went on their dominance became clearer and clearer. The final 2-0 scoreline in their favor was hardly a reflection of their superiority. They could have scored three or four more goals, having, in the second half, hit the post twice, and forced goalkeeper Brad Guzan into a couple of excellent saves.

The extent of their superiority can hardly be questioned. But what was definitely puzzling was the ease with which they obtained that mastery. This was a totally unexpected turn of events, with the USA simply fading away and producing less and less of any soccer consequence as the game went on.

Rarely have I seen a U.S. national team play with such an evident lack of commitment. When I look for reasons that might have led to a team-wide depression, I can find none. But I can find a bunch of reasons why the players should have been on a high. One of them was stressed by Bob Bradley himself, referring to the excitement of playing against Brazil. This was an experience for his players to look forward to. Yes, that makes sense -- especially as there was, in this game, the scent of victory because of the inexperienced team that Brazil was fielding.

And that was on top of the knowledge that this was a homecoming, a welcome back attended by thankful fans. Did we see the American players going off to the edges of the field to greet the fans, to wave, to throw kisses? No, there seemed to be no celebratory spirit at all here.

Things were flat from almost from the outset. This takes some explaining. I suppose an obvious suspect in this curious case of apathy, would be the equivocal position of Bob Bradley.

Are his players upset by not knowing whether he will still be in position by the time the next game comes around? Is he himself so distracted with working out his future -- which includes suggestions that he might get an offer to coach in the English Premier League, at Aston Villa -- that he is losing contact with, and authority over, the team?

I’m not concerned here with the team’s playing tactics. I’ve never found Bradley’s tactics anything other than straightforward. And for this game, how complicated did they need to be? No, what seemed to be missing from this team was motivation.

That is the indisputably coach’s responsibility. I have always thought that Bradley does a good job in that area. In which case, what went wrong here?

Let me repeat my position on Bradley’s tenure. I feel he should be retained, for probably a year at least -- but with the clear understanding that he starts to renovate and diversify his team. I can’t see him being part of any long-term plans, because he has never shown any evidence that he understands that the long-term, even medium-term plans of American soccer must include a greater acceptance of the Latin elements that are now so important in the game in this country. Bradley has, after all, not done a bad job. He has had some excellent results -- but with the limited player pool that suits his knowledge and experience of the game.

But none of that counts for much if -- simply because of the way that circumstances have played out -- he now finds himself in a hopelessly lame-duck situation. If we’ve reached a stage where the players need, even subconsciously, to know that the coach is the coach and likely to remain so, if his authority or ability to command respect, has been fatally compromised, then Sunil Gulati has to quickly inject certainty into the situation, either by confirming Bradley or axing him.

Similarly, my preference for retaining him for a limited period contains the obvious weakness that it also tells everyone -- not least Bradley himself -- that his future lies elsewhere.

I’m hoping that Tuesday night’s performance was an aberration. It would have to be that, an inexplicable hiccup, because the excuses offered by Bradley and his players -- the field, the heat, the travel -- are depressingly feeble. They all apply equally to Brazil, so it needs reemphasizing that this was a gala homecoming party for the USA.

Yes, Bradley did try out a couple of youngsters, Omar Gonzalez and Alejandro Bedoya -- and they were certainly not the worst players on the field. But for the Brazilians, we saw the 20-year-old Paulo Henrique Ganso and teenager Neymar looking so confident, so skilled, so in charge - - that the contrast with the Americans was quite devastating.

As for the argument that the Americans were not really fit or ready because they are with European clubs whose season has not yet started -- well, seven of the Brazilian starters also play in Europe.

This was not an evening that the American players, or Bob Bradley, will remember with any feeling of pride. The night the USA failed to turn up to its own party.

16 comments about "Is Bob Bradley already a lame duck?".
  1. Paul Bryant, August 12, 2010 at 1:28 a.m.

    Mr. Gardner, stop trying to play both sides of the fence. The clock is ticking for the next WC. What's the sense of giving Bob Bradley another year? We need somebody for the next four years. The WC has been over for a month. It's time for the USSF to move on. Let's get a manager that has the follwing credentials: Has played professionally; has managed teams in Europe; Has played in the WC; has managed a WC team. Hmm... I wonder who fits these crtitera?

  2. Philippe Fontanelli, August 12, 2010 at 8:29 a.m.

    Pau and Ric you guys are so right! I am suprised at Gardner with his inane article. Is he trying to be polically coorrrect? His futile suggestions on Bradley are ludicrous. Let's call the spade a spade and get a new coach ASAP for the future of US Soccer before it is ruined!

  3. Soccer Bloke, August 12, 2010 at 8:41 a.m.

    I heard somewhere that a sticking point with Klinsman last time around was that he wanted total control of the national team and also the youth teams, withe the authority to inject new staff throughout, but that was not acceptable to USSF?

  4. Bill Anderson, August 12, 2010 at 9 a.m.

    Mr. Gardner, I had to read the article twice to make sure that I read you correctly. The way the game turned out was completely predictable. The players had absolutely NOTHING to play for (with the exception of Bedoya, Goodson, and Gonzales). The rest of the players will not be on the World Cup roster for WC 2014. Even Landon Donovan will be too old to start in Brazil.

  5. Bill Anderson, August 12, 2010 at 9:05 a.m.

    Second Point: That US Soccer would plan and market a "Celebration" of the 2010 World Cup Team is an insult to the American fans and the US Team. If the team wanted or deserved a "Celebration" they should do it in a PARADE. Games are either Competetive or Evaluative. This game was used for NO PURPOSE. Obviously Bob and Sunil were NOT evaluating players. This was also not competetive. So the "top minds" at US Soccer do not have a clue about how to move the team forward, but instead are wasting time and resources "Celebrating" nothing.

  6. Jim Elmore, August 12, 2010 at 9:35 a.m.

    My lasting memory of Brazil's total control of the game was the most basic of soccer training — three on the ball. When any Brazil player had pressure there were almost always two other players there for support. Every player on the US team looked alone, no support, no one else wanting the ball. It seems fundamental to me that the short game rules.

  7. Gus Keri, August 12, 2010 at 9:50 a.m.

    Pual..What did you expect of the US team against Brazil? Are you kidding? Brazil played the most wonderful possession soccer. That is similar to what Spain did to all their opponents for the last few years and in the WC. Did you want the US to start fouling like what the Dutch did? When the masters of soccer play the beautiful game at its best, all you can hope for is to limit the damage. The lack of technical abilities of the US players was showing. This game was doomed. There is nothing BB can do at this stage.

  8. Felix Moyano, August 12, 2010 at 9:52 a.m.

    Thanks Jim...finally a voice of reason. The SHORT game absolutely rules but in this country we're still bowing down to the European way (Spain not included).

    I can't count how many times the ball is booted aimlessly downfield by our defenders and especially Tim Howard who of course perfected punting the ball from the masters of it, the English.

  9. Felix Moyano, August 12, 2010 at 10:06 a.m. more thing. Did you see Jonathan Spector holding on to dear life when Neymar attacked him on the flanks? Here is where BB must take some responsibility and make changes during the game. Why not have Spector switch positions with Bocanegra in the middle? Neymar had Spector twisting and turning more than a Oklahoma was hilarious.

  10. beautiful game, August 12, 2010 at 10:31 a.m.

    Shows how 'deep' the USMNT roster is...a couple of new faces and the vets played the usual 20-30 minutes before going into second gear...taking the pitch and wearing the national colors should be an inspiring moment whether it's a friendly or meaningful game. That lack of mentality is the first problematic area to be addressed...if u don't show up for 90-minutes, u are off the squad.

  11. Angie Wallace, August 12, 2010 at 11:02 a.m.

    Jim Elmore has it right. The times when we did manage to get possession, there was no help and so we couldn't retain it.
    I just started playing soccer, but it's an adult squad, so no coach. But my inclination is that it's more the players than the coach. Granted, Bradley should step in with some supplemental motivation when the guys run out, but they're the ones not playing. They shouldn't need to be told how to put pressure on, or how to act like they want to be playing. I love Howard, but pulling him out was a good move, lest the score have reflected Brazil's true dominance as Gardner suggested.

  12. Theodore Eison, August 12, 2010 at 1:13 p.m.

    So, first you say we need to include more Latin elements, then you combine the names of Omar Gonzalez and Hercules Gomez into one. You exemplify overwhelming hypocrisy, Mr. Gardner.

  13. Dirk Sanders, August 12, 2010 at 2:27 p.m.

    US Soccer needs to make a change, and hire Klinsmann as the US soccer coach. If you agree, let your voice be heard, and sign the petition! (Link Below)

  14. Everson Maciel, August 12, 2010 at 2:51 p.m.

    This Brazilian team will be the best team Brazil ever had. USA had no chance on this game. Brazil played a wonderfull possesion game and the USA game kept playing the same 4-4-2 the England, who has not won a world cup since 1966, plays. Brazil just played great soccer with short passes and skills. That is the way Spain won the World Cup. When are we changing the mentality os soccer in this country? We have to go for skills over the strenght and direct soccer that we try. We should bring a South American coach. Scolari would be a perfect fit.

  15. Roberto Avey, August 12, 2010 at 6:14 p.m.

    I'm not sure if a different USA squad could have changed the outcome of this loss, maybe at minimum a different squad could have made the game, "NOT SO ONE SIDED."Also, a coach makes a big difference Brazil 2010 World Cup" VS the current "Brazil team." Regarding, (USA formation), 4-4-2, straight forward play, BIG, FAST, STRONG forwards? 4 defenders, two of whom can't come out passing (Spector - Bornstein vs Andre Santos - Dani Alves) Hey BB look at these little crappy offensive minded players...David Villa is small, Tevez is small, Neymar is small, Messi tiny, Romario small, Bebeto small- Maybe America's idea of soccer is wrong? Your telling me in ALL of America (3.2 mil) we can't find a soccer player who can hold and dribble the ball up front? REALLY!!! For some reason I doubt that.... I'm sure there are some small kids out there, who are slow and are playing soccer, and who haven't matured yet (like Messi)....that are being disregarded as we speak! But, the big fast kid gets all the playing time!

  16. Paul Bryant, August 13, 2010 at 6:31 p.m.

    Oliver, to your point about Klinsman, he understands quite well that the future of US soccer will depend on developing current youth players now. The critical 14-18 year old age group is where the stars of the next couple of WC's will be developed. Klinsman wants to control the pipeline of players so he will have something to work with in 2014 and 2018. I should also add that though this reach into the youth ranks, Klinsman can possibly change the soccer philosphy, tactics, and technical style of future USMNT's.

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