Bradley blazing a trail in Middle East
Bob Bradley has never been afraid of a challenge.
Whether as a 21-year old taking his first coaching job, or as the head coach who guided an expansion Chicago Fire to an MLS Cup title in 1998, Bradley has found new frontiers to conquer.
After five years as U.S. men’s national team head coach, a tenure that ended with him being fired in July, Bradley is about to embark on his most unique challenge to date.
Bradley has taken over as head coach of the Egyptian national team, and on Monday, as he prepared to make the move from his home in California to the Middle East, he was more interested in looking to the future than dwelling on the circumstances of his firing as U.S. men’s national team head coach on July 28th.
Bob Bradley is unveiled as the new coach of Egypt. (Photo by Khalil Hamra/Getty Images)
“From the time I left Princeton, I’ve always enjoyed different and new challenges and new opportunities,” Bradley said. “There was a period after the World Cup when I had to assess what possible options would be out there. Then I re-signed. After I was let go this year and the same thing happened.
“You try to assess the options of a new challenge, whether it was going to be with a club team or national team, that was certainly something where if the right thing came along I would consider it.”
Bradley has always been interested in coaching abroad, and while success with Egypt could help pave the way for more opportunities for American coaches internationally his motivation to jump right back into coaching was more about finding a good job than blazing a trail for future American coaches.
“Whenever our national team played, especially in Europe, and we were in big competitions, we understood we had to fight for respect,” Bradley said. “I think that’s true for players and coaches in the U.S. We’re constantly fighting for respect around the world. In the last five years, as national team coach, I know that as I’ve traveled I’ve been shown a tremendous amount of respect for what our team was all about.”
Bob Bradley was relieved of his duties as United Staes coach at the end of July. (Photo by Gail Oskin/Getty Images)
One subject Bradley wouldn’t get into was the circumstances of his firing as U.S. head coach. He was let go shortly after the U.S. team’s 4-2 loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final, and replaced by Jurgen Klinsmann. The move came just eight months into Bradley’s second four-year contract and shortly after a first World Cup cycle that saw the team win the 2007 Gold Cup, reach the finals of the 2008 Confederations Cup and 2009 Gold Cup, as well as winning their World Cup group at the 2010 World Cup.
Those accomplishments didn’t keep Bradley from being released and from critics casting his tenure as something short of successful. The U.S. team posted a 4-5-4 record under Bradley after the 2010 World Cup, which led to increased criticism, and the team’s loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup Final paved the way for U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati to make a third run at trying to hire Klinsmann.
“It was an honor to be the national team coach for five years,” Bradley said. “We’re very proud of what kind of team we built during that period of time - the way we represented the United States in the Confederations Cup and the World Cup. Our staff was still motivated to transition our team after the World Cup. We felt that we were taking things in a very good direction.
“The record is there. It speaks for itself and people can assess it any way they want.”
Hired by the U.S. national team in 2007, Bradley helped the team make the transition from an older generation that included the likes of Brian McBride, Claudio Reyna and Eddie Pope, to a strong squad that went on to finish first in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying while also impressing at the 2009 Confederations Cup and reaching the 2010 World Cup second round.
While those accomplishments only earned him another eight months in charge of the U.S. team, they did raise Bradley’s profile abroad, evidenced by interest in his services from Mexican club Santos Laguna and Egypt.
“There’s been a tremendous amount of respect from around the world,” Bradley said. “Coaches and players from teams that we played against; some other soccer people from around the world that saw the way our team played. That part has been great.
“There are different opinions in the United States, just like with any soccer nation.” Bradley said. “There’s different voices. From people in the game in the United States, I’ve always felt good that people who had a chance to see how we put our team together, see how we worked, people who were on the inside and saw how things were done, there’s always been a respect for doing things the right way.”
Bradley’s accomplishments with the United States were enough to impress Egypt to hire him as head coach. He inherits a team that features several players who were members of the squad that won three African Nations Cups, but which is in the middle of transitioning to a new generation of talent.
“I certainly knew they had, in recent years, great success, and that the people of Egypt have a tremendous passion for the game,” Bradley said. “The people of Egypt are proud people and proud of their national team. And with all their success Egypt hasn’t been to a World Cup since 1990. I know how important that is to the people of Egypt.
"Some of the very, very good players that have formed the nucleus of those three consecutive (African Nations Cup) championship teams are older now,” Bradley said.
“Ahmed Hassan, (Wael) Gomaa the defender, the goalie, (Essam) El-Hadary, so there’s some players that have been very important that are older. There are a still a core of guys that are at the right age to continue to play big roles. There is also some younger talent.
“You look at how they put their great teams together and now you try, when you get there, to get the right people around you on the staff, forming the right nucleus and introducing the right younger players and trying to build a team that can qualify and move forward.”
Bradley joins the Egyptian national team in the wake of political change in the country, which saw its long-standing government forced out amid public unhappiness. Concerns about instability in the country have been put to rest for Bradley, who has spoken to Egyptian officials and citizens and even members of the U.S. State Department and feels comfortable with the team and new home he will be moving to.
“It’s a historic time coming up where the people will decide what their government will be,” Bradley said. “all of us in the U.S. understand how important that is, but I feel that I’ve gotten a really good feel for the situation from my visits and from talking to so many different people.”
Bradley will make his coaching debut for Egypt on Nov. 14 against Brazil in Qatar and departed the United States on Tuesday to get started on the transition to his new role. He heads to Egypt as a trailblazer, and if he can help Egypt find the kind of success he helped the United States enjoy during the 2010 World Cup cycle, Bradley could find himself coaching a second straight World Cup, earning more respect for American coaches and reaffirming his status as one of the best coaches this country has ever produced.