FOX Soccer Exclusive
Bradley has earned right to choose
While it still remains unclear whether Bob Bradley will retained as U.S. national team head coach, there is a reason to believe that it may actually help American soccer if Bradley finds a new job.
No, not because Bradley doesn’t deserve to be re-hired by U.S. Soccer, because the reality is Bradley does deserve to keep the U.S. national team job. The reason a Bradley departure might help American soccer is because he has the chance to make inroads as a manager in Europe that no American has had the chance to make.
The fact remains that while more and more Americans are going to Europe and succeeding as players, there has yet to be an American head coach given a chance in a high-level league.
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Bradley has been under consideration for the vacant Fulham coaching job vacated by Roy Hodgson, and you can’t blame Bradley for considering a new challenge. After spending four years holding what was a dream job for him, Bradley looks ready to consider other options.
So why might Bradley leave and pass on a chance at a second World Cup with the United States? It’s simple really. Bradley understands American soccer history, and the significance of being a trailblazer. He is fully aware that Europe has yet to give Americans a real chance to be coaches, and he is probably in as good a position to change that as any American coach before him.
It will still require a European club taking a chance on him, something that won’t come easy because for as much respect as Bradley has earned internationally, he still hasn’t managed in Europe and it will take a brave club to be the first to hand the running of their club to an American. The day should come when such a development won’t be so rare, and Bradley could be the coach to help bring us closer to that point.
Should the U.S. national team let Bradley walk away? A good number of American fans think so, with the disappointment of the team’s Round of 16 loss to Ghana still fresh in the mind. Yes, Bradley made some regrettable lineup decisions that hurt the team’s chances of beat Ghana, but to boil down his future to one match does a disservice to the successful run he has led the team on through his four years on the job.
Bradley led the United States to a FIFA Confederations Cup final, a 2007 Gold Cup title, first place in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, first place and an unbeaten record in World Cup group play, and an unbeaten record at the 2010 World Cup in regulation, with the Ghana defeat coming in extra time.
That track record is overshadowed by the Ghana loss, and the sense that the United States missed an opportunity to make a run as far as the World Cup semifinals. While it is true that the Americans could have beaten Ghana if certain things had been done differently, the fact is Ghana was a strong opponent that scored a tremendous game-winning goal in extra time.
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If there is a legitimate question that begs answering regarding keeping Bradley, it is the question of whether it is a wise move to hand a head coach a second four-year World Cup cycle. We all remember Bruce Arena’s second world Cup, the winless campaign in 2006, and that failure is surely working against Bradley, whose first four year tenure was arguably even more successful than Arena’s.
The reality is that more and more national team coaches have been given contract extensions after the 2010 World Cup than after any recent World Cup. Perhaps the best evidence of Bradley deserving a new contract can be found in the group the United States played in during the World Cup. The Americans won their group, finishing unbeaten in fact, but while England, Slovenia and even winless Algeria have all re-signed their head coaches to new deals, Bradley is the only manager from Group C not to have his future secured with his national team.
U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati may have that difficult decision to make. Does he re-sign Bradley and reward him for a strong four year cycle that saw the U.S. national team overachieve on a number of levels, or does he look elsewhere for a new coach to build on the world Bradley has done, with the disappointment of that Ghana loss ultimately proving to be the deciding factor?
The decision could be made for Gulati if some intrepid European club looks beyond the non-existent track record of American club coaches and looks at Bradley’s body of work. If a club team does make an offer, don’t be surprised to see Bradley take it and move on to the next journey in one of the most successful careers in American soccer coaching history.
If there are no serious offers, and no European clubs willing to take a chance on an American coach, the U.S. national team should look to re-sign Bradley. If the national team doesn’t keep Bradley, we might find ourselves waiting that much longer to see an American soccer coach become a pioneer in Europe.
Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the U.S. national team and Major League Soccer.