Wednesday, August 25, 2010

About Bob Bradley

(Photo: uncredited)

I meant to post this sooner, but you know, life sometimes happens. A road trip here, a wedding there, a funeral here, and a board meeting there, and before you know it, that idea that you were anxious to write about finds itself in the junk drawer.

Yet, with the recent news that U.S. Soccer and Bob Bradley will reportedly meet to "discuss the future," I figured now would be an appropriate moment to rescue this lost little post.

If there's one thing that the USA-Brazil friendly a fortnight ago taught us, it's that Bob Bradley is unequivocally the wrong man to lead this country back to the World Cup in four years.

This isn't to say he isn't a good manager. History's shown us that he's succeeded at nearly every stop in his coaching career. He led Princeton to two Ivy League titles. He racked up over 100 wins in MLS. Suffice to say, Bob Bradley knows how to win.

And as the national team manager, he's accomplished alot during his tenure. A Confederations Cup final, a 2007 Gold Cup championship, a top of the Group finish in the World Cup, not to mention rehabilitating a squad that bombed out of Germany in '06. You could argue that no national team manager in this country's history has done more for the program in four years than Bob Bradley has.

Unsurprisingly, none of that meant anything to Brazil that Tuesday in the Meadowlands, where the the Samba Kings overtook the Yanks and embarrassed them in front of their own crowd. It was a friendly in name only. In a more literal sense, it was a shovel to the face. The final score read 2-0*, although by my count, it could have very well been 6-0.

(*Originally posted it was 3-0. Totally misremembered that Brazil somehow managed not to score in the second half.)

And all Bob Bradley could do was helplessly watch the horror unfold. His managerial style emphasizes those typical American elements: speed, physicality, and toughness. But, in the blink of an eye, all of these aspects were rendered moot by a heady group of Brazilians. Speed means nothing when your opponent is faster. You can't be physical against players who are constantly moving. And you sure as heck can't be tough when you're ballwatching.

Now, don't get me wrong: the above attributes of the American game are important, and have greatly improved since the days of Bob Gansler and Italia '90. These are the same attributes that have seen the Americans through to six consecutive World Cups. Conversely, these are all approaches to a game that the Americans have still failed to master.

It's going to take a different mindset for the Yanks to reach the next level. Bob Bradley has coached his tracksuit off, and deserves the respect and admiration of this country. We've seen alot of great moments birth during his tenure. Moments many of us will never forget.

However, it's time to move on. It's time for US Soccer to recognize that an American manager like Bradley can only take the team so far. An entirely different methodolgy must be implemented in order to ensure that this squad doesn't stagnate or suffer from the common politics of favoritism that often crop up when a national team manager retains his job beyond the World Cup. See: Arena, Bruce. Circa 2006.

Change must be embraced. We certainly wish Bradley all the best for all he's accomplished as national team manager, but the Yanks are in desperate need of a new direction. For all the improvements Bradley made over the past four years, the technical aspect of this squad has not significantly improved. This club still struggles with possession against good countries. Rather than improving on this, the gaffer has simply coordinated his charges to become a counterattacking side. The proverbial perfume spraying on the pig, if you will.

For decades, this club has chased the ball. They play to their strengths - chasing, running, and charging ahead - with varying degrees of success. But the team is stagnating. New ideas are desperately needed. This team has to stop thinking like an American team. They need to start thinking like a global team. A team that holds possession. A team that can win balls in the box. A team that has technique to go along with its speed. A team that doesn't lean on its best player. A team that doesn't need to concede a goal to wake itself up.

These are all ideas that need to be introduced to this group. Under a new manager, this group should fail, and fail often while they work on this. They need to become stronger mentally. And this will ensure that.

Look at the games against England and Slovenia. For the better part of those combined 180 minutes, the Americans ran around the park while the Europeans played keep away. And that's been a recurring theme of the US MNT for quite some time.

This club needs to be shocked. They need to be challenged. Not to be faster. Not be tougher. But to be better on the ball. To find an open teammate rather than taking charge when faced with a deficit. There needs to be more off the ball movement. They need to stop being predictable.

They also need to stop exahusting themselves late in matches. Look at the stats from the 2009 Confederations Cup. Six of the top eighteen players in the "distance covered" stat are Americans. It's hard to seize a goal late when you're completely exhausted. It's even harder to do so when your opponent has both the lead and the bulk of the possession, which has happened quite often in US MNT matches.

And it was generally the same storyline in this year's World Cup. Landon, Dempsey, and the younger Bradley all outdistanced players who saw action in more games than they did. Forget that the Stretch Armstrong approach was adopted by the midfield. Throw out the fact that its backs were taxed higher than MC Hammer. The mantra of the Men's National team seems to be "just keep running and everything will be fine." Note to the nats: it won't be fine.

It'll take a bold manager to steer this country away from the run, run, run approach and turn the wheel in the direction of a World Cup championship. Someone with a vision that deviates from the status quo. A manager that is ready to shake up the belief that, in order for this team to progress, it has to learn how to win differently. I don't know who that manager is. But I do know that he is not Bob Bradley.


Anonymous said...

Yes, and that new coach should be Jurgen Klismann.

Starting11 said...

Nice post. I agree that Bradley has outlived his time with the USMNT and that we need a European or South American manager. I'm not sure I get the Klinsmann love; what has he done? He took a loaded Germany team to third in the 06 World Cup on home soil. I think that's underachievement, if you ask me.
Martin O'Neill anyone?

Anonymous said...

Klinsmann did not take a loaded team. He developed that team from 04, and that same team was developed by Leow who was his assitant coach, that had the same attacking style. Both times finished 3rd. And with a little luck could have been in the Final. For Bayern Munich he finished 3rd in the Euro Champions League. I think that is a pretty good resume. Plus, he speaks good English, lives in the US with an American wife, and knows the US game pretty well.