Unprofessional Foul


August 31, 2010

Snap Judgments: UFers Weigh In On Bob Bradley

It's a shield from sanity.

When the news came down yesterday that we’re in for four more years of Bob Bradley with the USMNT, I said I didn’t know how to respond. Frankly, I still do, but my compatriots had no problem responding to the news.

This post started on the daily UF e-mail thread, and we’re bringing it out here in the open. We might add to it as more UFers come forth with their thoughts.

My snap judgment? This smells like the path of least resistance, rather than the brave move. Bradley has been a success by all accounts, but it’s HOW he’s been a success that makes me want him gone. He just doesn’t know what he’s doing sometimes, and the players have bailed him out too many times. Sunil Gulati and US Soccer must not have had a viable second option. If they did, whether Klinsy or someone else, they missed out on the opportunity to attempt to take the team in a new and possibly more successful direction.

Anyway, that’s my quick reaction. Now, here are the snap judgments from other UFers …

Spectator (who started the whole thread): Four more years of Huh Bob was sadly inevitable. If Sunil fires Bob and the US falters, than Sunil looks dumb. If we keep Bob and the US falters, than it’s Bob’s fault. Classic bureaucrat’s paradox. There is never an incentive to do something inspired.

Plus, Bob is a company man. Klinsy would have just come in and immediately wanted to change the curtains. Sunil has his legacy to think about when the US wins the 2022 World Cup bid. Can’t have your coach going around saying he knows more than the head of US Soccer!

I’m not sure that Klinsmann was really the answer, but at least it would signal that the U.S. is really serious about taking the next step in our development.  Bradley was fine for what he is: an American with limited experience, very limited tactical knowledge, awful in-game decisions, a good understanding of the U.S.’s talent pool, and well-liked by the players.  That’s fine for sustaining the status quo.  But not good for developing the team into what we all hope it can become — a legitimate international force.  It feels like the best we can hope for the next four years is exactly what we’ve already had.  Plus, we have to worry about the next generation of players developing into decent players, not at all like Freddie Adu.

I should’ve known we were doomed when everyone blindly jumped on the Huh Bob bandwagon during the World Cup. The worst was when they deleted the Fire Bob facebook page. As if that proved anything at all. The U.S. led for a few minutes during the entire competition.  We took advantage of a shaky England, barely got a draw against Slovenia, had a magical moment against Algeria, and crashed out against Ghana — a team we should have beaten — and missed out on the easiest path to the later stages that we will likely ever have.  And for that, Bob deserves an extension?  Please.

Oh and I blame SAF for saying Bob deserved an extension. F**k the brotherhood of football managers. This guy is simply not the answer to what the U.S. needs right now.  Give us something to inspire hope, or at least show that we’re serious about competing.

Autoglass: There is a case for Bradley. I hate the extension, personally. But the only other option right now is Klinsy. I’ve met him. Very Orange County (in a bad way). And he was a disaster at Bayern.

I would prefer Klinsy at any price to Bob. But it’s not like it’s a crazy choice.

The Fan’s Attic: The Bob Bradley Extension is simply a face saving measure for both sides.
Sunil Gulati revealed his true feelings after the U.S. World Cup run ended saying “the team [was] capable of more.”  He said everybody knew it, him, Bob Bradley and the players.  Gulati concluded his assessment by saying “we’re disappointed we didn’t get to play another 90 minutes at least.”  Despite his feelings, Gulati was unable to do what he should be able to do and is obligated to do: improve the USMNT.  He knew the flaws but he has failed to do anything about it and stuck with the status quo rather than try to stand upon the shoulders of what Bob Bradley and the team had accomplished to reach greater heights.

It’s not so much Gulati is afraid to try to succeed, rather he is afraid to fail and this decision proves.  Perhaps it’s the economist in Gulati that would rather take a more constant rate of return on an investment than a higher risk investment.

This is ok for a mature team and soccer nation.  But the U.S. is not a mature soccer nation and has a great deal of time before it becomes one.  Now is the time for higher risk investments.  Something outside the box.  Something new.  Something not the same as the past four years.

For Bob Bradley’s part this extension represents his failure to secure a better job, or at least a new job that he believes is commensurate with his achievements.  However, it is clear the rest of the world was not as enamored with the U.S. performance under Bradley.  Yes, he achieved some dramatic results and got out of the group stage at the World Cup.  But, these achievements only masked the tactical mishaps, motivational miscues and lineup mistakes of Bradley.  The team routinely played from behind, could not adapt to in-game strategy changes and, this is a huge flaw on Bradley’s part, routinely had to make half-time lineup changes.

This is why Bradley was never a serious or viable contender for the Aston Villa or Fulham job.  He has not displayed the chops necessary to manage in the big leagues of club soccer.  And, much like Gulati, it appears that Bradley was afraid of failure more than he strived for greatness.  If Bradley has displayed some interest in lower tier leagues of Europe, maybe he could have gone on to great success.  We will never know because Bradley was afraid to step beyond his comfort zone.

As a USMNT fan, I can tell you this, I am not in a comfort zone with four more years of Bradley.  Or Gulati for that matter.

The NY Kid: The retention of Bob Bradley should make fans of other footballing nations ecstatic. With Tracksuit Bob still in charge, the USMNT will not threaten the likes of Spain, the Netherlands, Argentina or even the hapless French, Italians and English. Instead, we will be forced to continue to settle for forced elation to advance to the group stages of major competitions, never thinking that we are capable of winning it all. The man lacks imagination, is tactically deficient, makes poor lineup decisions and is generally “successful” in spite of, rather than due to, himself. We are talking about a man who has a record of 38-21-8 which, considering the CONCACAF competition, isn’t all that spectacular.

Sadly, the nature of that competition means that there will be almost no chances to get rid of Bradley before WC 2014, where we will surely fail yet again.

In the end, it feels like Bradley is a bad joke continually played on us by Sunil Gulati. The USSF head appears to have only considered Bob and Juergen Klinsmann as his choices, so when he was unable to secure the services of the German legend, he was left with no other options but Huh Bob. You can’t really fault Bradley for sticking around – the blame here lies squarely on Gulati, who also clearly lacks imagination to the severe detriment of the development of the USMNT. Perhaps on October 9th, a crowd should pass by the USSF headquarters on the way to Soldier Field for the match against Poland and let Gulati know exactly how we feel. Of course, since he’s an “absentee dad” it’s unlikely that he would even be there.

Sigh. 4 more years of Tracksuit Bob. At least I can still root for France.

Ah, crap.

James T (who let him in here?): Look fellas, my condolences. But you must consider that any kind of longevity or continuity in international management is a good thing. Granted, he’s not the sharpest tool in the box, but in recent years, it seems like most gaffers willing to coach an NT want to do it the quick and dirty way: coach a major tournament, do little in the way of meaningful work, collect check with lots of zeroes on it.

And so it goes. Sven, Guus, Scolari, Parreira: these guys are bad news. As good as they can be in charge, they don’t care about your squad, your youth squad, and they certainly don’t care about your country. Pay them, then lose them.

So let’s shift to Klinsmann for a moment. Yes, it looked like he was interviewing for the job on ESPN after the USA/Ghana defeat, but I never got the sense that he was actually strong-willed enough to do all the legwork he laid out in great detail.

Consider his resume: he walked out on the German NT after declaring that he wanted more family time and that he didn’t have the strength to go on. When he did return to action at the helm of Bayern Munich, he failed to live up to lofty expectations and was rather unceremoniously dumped.

These incidents do a lot to a man, who’s been out of management for a while and clearly enjoying the freedom and relief of leading a normal, civilian life. He gets paid to chat about the sport and offer opinions, looking good while never putting himself in a spot to look bad.

In the US, with the sport clearly in the national mindset and pressure building for the USMNT to perform, is it any wonder that soft-hearted Jurgen would want no part of that in his day-to-day existence? He’s all too willing to opine from the fringe and offer ideas, but it’s clear from his post-playing days that his goals in life have changed. Therefore, he’s not the guy you want in such a job, tasked with rebuilding and continuing to push the US onto the international stage.

Bob’s got many flaws, sure, but he handles the gig well. In time, guys like Bornstein and Ricardo Clark will retire, meaning Huh Bob can’t pick them. Old dogs can learn new tricks, and considering the current candidates’ list beyond Klinsmann, keeping someone like Bob is not a damaging, terrible thing. You could do a lot worse.

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