It certainly didn’t come as a surprise. Only the most optimistic fans would have a expected Bob Bradley to have retained his position as US men’s national team coach after a rather disastrous showing in the Gold Cup. The timing of the decision, however, could be said to be a little odd. If this was going to be the outcome, why not cut ties with Bradley soon after the cup? The answer may lie in a press conference Sunil Gulati has called for friday.
Bradley is as much a victim of his own drawbacks as he is of circumstance. If his tenure showed us anything it is that he isn’t tactically sagacious (he has very often been incapable of making changes to his teams when games called for them, or when his game-plans failed) , and that he sticks with his favorites even when they fail to deliver performances – think Jonathan Bornstein. It is fair to add, though, that one of the US national team’s most consistent performers has been Bradley’s son, Michael Bradley, even as he languished in Europe.
Circumstantially, Bradley was a victim of the lack of depth of the US national team pool. Bornstein may have done poorly, but there aren’t exactly a plethora of choices at left-back. Eric Lichaj who seemed to be his apparent heir under Bradley, is a right-footed player, which needless to say, is a slight hindrance to the left-back spot.
The issue of pool depth is definitely the biggest hurdle facing the US team, and its future coach. The problem is not easily solved, and it requires a complete change in US player development (I won’t dwell on the issue, but for the sake of controversy, let’s just say that it bears reminding that soccer usually finds its idols in the lower classes, and in the United States the sport is a decidedly upper-middle class
The big question now is who will take over Bradley’s role. The prevailing concensus is that Gulati already has his man (hence leaving Bradley’s termination until now), especially since a game versus arch rivals, Mexico, is scheduled for August. Nevertheless, this week will provide limitless speculation concerning the position.
Still, speculators take notice. The US national team job isn’t as attractive a position as American soccer aficionados like to think it is. For starters, there’s that whole lack of pool depth situation. Then there’s the fact that the pool’s health depends primarily on the MLS, a league that needs to progress a lot, and that relies on aging superstars to inject quality into its play. If you’re fuming at this last point, just play back those Real Madrid and Manchester United thumpings against Major League opposition, which i know you taped. Finally, the US plays in CONCACAF (the confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football), not exactly a coaches dream region. I’m sure very few attractive candidates are longing for those trips to Honduras and Guatemala. Perhaps the only benefit of the CONCACAF, is (if former qualification campaigns are of any indication) the relative ease with which the US will qualify for the World Cup in 2014.
The usual names are already being thrown around by soccer pundits and fans, alike. Jurgen Klinsmann has been talked about since Arena was axed, and Marcelo Bielsa’s wonderful offensive acumen has inspired some fantasies. There have even been utterances of a possible second stint in CONCACAF for Sven Goran Eriksson, after a short, albeit humiliating, term with Mexico. Although all three options should be viewed favorably by US fans, Klinsmann is the more realistic choice, given his knowledge of the American game.
Since we’re all involved in this guessing game, i’ll end by offering up my picks: Jason Kreiss should be an obvious candidate for his success as Real Salt Lake coach, as should Ricardo La Volpe (former Mexico coach, and currently with Costa Rica) for his CONCACAF experience, and apparent disillusionment with the Ticos.
The next few days will assuredly be both compelling, and incredibly important to the future of the US men’s national team.