Bradley aware of mixed record of repeat coaches
Bob Bradley led the U.S. men to an upset of World Cup champion
Spain, their first appearance in a final at a major FIFA tournament
and the top spot in their group in South Africa.
Now he has to find a way to improve on that.
Bradley’s success and experience convinced U.S. Soccer president
Sunil Gulati that he already had the right coach, outweighing any
concerns about the team going stale or taking a step backward in a
second four-year cycle with the same manager.
”We’re familiar with the statistics of first- and second-cycle
coaches,” Gulati said Tuesday, a day after Bradley agreed to an
extension that runs through the end of 2014. ”In the end, we came
to the conclusion that his experience and record, his work over the
last four years, overcame any issues.
”We think we put ourselves in the best possible position to
continue the growth we’ve had by reappointing Bob.”
Still, Bradley’s extension came as something of a surprise. He
has made no secret of his desire to coach overseas someday – he was
linked to the openings at Fulham and Aston Villa in the English
Premier League, though had no direct discussions with either team –
and many thought U.S. Soccer might want a fresh start in the
lead-up to the 2014 World Cup.
National team coaches tend to have short shelf lives – with good
reason. West Germany coach Franz Beckenbauer may have followed a
trip to the 1986 finals with the World Cup title four years later,
but most struggle to replicate their initial success. Defending
champion Italy and 2006 runner-up France were dismal in South
Africa, despite having the same coaches as four years earlier.
Bradley’s predecessor was Bruce Arena, who led the Americans on
a surprising run to the quarterfinals in 2002 only to have them
crash out in the first round four years later.
Gulati refused to say whether he had talked with any other
candidates, including Juergen Klinsmann, who was offered the job
four years ago.
”All the positives greatly outweigh the other concerns,”
Gulati said. ”We think on balance we’ve made the best possible
Unlike teams in Europe and Africa that already have begun
playing qualifiers for their continental championships, the United
States doesn’t have significant games until next year’s Gold Cup.
The Americans do have exhibitions against Poland (Oct. 9) and
Colombia (Oct. 12), however, and Bradley will use the games to
begin looking at younger players who could help over the next four
”When you begin a cycle, you do an overall assessment. You take
inventory of where you are as a team,” Bradley said. ”Most
important is identifying players, beginning the process of bringing
those players in. … I really believe strongly that our staff did
an excellent job of that in the last cycle. We will try to do a
better job in this next cycle.”
As for avoiding that second-cycle slump, Bradley said the key is
to constantly be aware of the environment he’s creating. Among his
biggest strengths are his even-keel demeanor with players and
willingness to be open-minded. He said Tuesday he has looked to
longtime successful coaches like Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson
and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski for ways to maintain a connection with
Krzyzewski, who led a star-studded roster to the basketball gold
medal at the Beijing Olympics, told Bradley he made sure to connect
with three players every day.
”If you don’t watch yourself, given your different
responsibilities, you can so easily get out there and kind of be in
your own little world. If you let that part get away from you, then
your players see that quickly,” Bradley said. ”That is the
challenge on the job. But that is the challenge whether you’ve been
on the job four years or four days.”
While Bradley said he is proud of the progress the Americans
made in his first four years, he knows there is room for
improvement. The Americans won their group in South Africa,
finishing ahead of England, only to lose to Ghana in overtime in
the second round. They’ve developed a troubling pattern of falling
behind early, and they got no goals from their forwards at the
World Cup. Their aging backline was also shaky, and will need to be
rebuilt before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
And, despite that victory over Spain at the Confederations Cup
last year, the U.S. still has a ways to go before it can be
considered one of the world’s best.
”I’m not easily satisfied,” Bradley said. ”We feel good about
what we’ve accomplished the last four years, but that doesn’t mean
I think it’s all perfect. That’s what motivates us and our players,
so we’ll continue to work at it.”
AP Sports Writer Rachel Cohen in New York contributed to this