Bob Bradley Must Go Now!

The US v. Panama Gold Cup match just finished, and I can barely contain my rage.  The US lost, but that alone is not the end of the world.  Losses can be a good thing, but this is not like losing to Spain, Brazil, or even Mexico.  Those losses I can at least understand (and except for Mexico, I can at least justify.)  A 2-1 loss to Panama though is an unforgivable result. It is not merely a sign of a mediocre team; it is the sign of a flailing one.  This should not be news.  The win over Canada was quite poor, even if the sports media did not recognize it as such.

Last summer I was completely bemused by those fans who, distraught by the US elimination to Ghana at the World Cup, moaned that it would take years before the US team would be this successful again because this was the US team’s Golden Generation.  This is baffling to me.  The squad has good players but no spectacular ones.  Unfortunately, these pessimistic US fans are probably correct about the long-term success of the United States but not for the reason they think.

The problem with US football is not the players.  Although a world-beating US squad is decades away, overall quality has improved every cycle.  The real stumbling block is the USSF.  The USSF is run by control-freaks who have no idea how to build a successful program.  If wanted to run a successful program, they would never have retained Bob Bradley.  I gave my reasons for my anti-Bradleyism in a previous post, so there is no reason to rehash.

The reason USSF keeps Bradley is not because Sunil Gulati believes he is a great coach; it is because Bradley is compliant.  He does not make waves.  He does not fight with MLS about players.  He is not a strong personality or a media star.  Most importantly, he does not try to be anything more than a team coach (unlike Jürgen Klinsmann who wanted complete top-to-bottom control over how the United States builds its football program.)  Bob Bradley probably feels so fortunate to have that job that he allows USSF to call the off-field shots.  After all, what other nation with aspirations of success would hire such a manager of such limited ability?  And in return for that compliance, USSF will keep him on until the US National Team inevitably bombs out of the 2014 World Cup.  Only then he will be fired because a large swath of the nation will be watching the competition and putting pressure on USSF.  Bradley is a ready-made scapegoat.  The vast majority of angry Americans will be satisfied; those of us who follow the game beyond the World Cup will tear our hair out.

To save future frustration, here is the trajectory of the US team: they will lose make the next round of the Gold Cup, but not win and the US will not qualify for the Confederation Cup, although that was a stated goal.  The USSF will not do anything.  Come 2014, the team will crash out in qualification.  A new and equally compliant coach will be hired by USSF.  He will have some success, but the 2018 World Cup is in Russia, which means the US will fall apart as they do every time the World Cup is in Europe.  So the next time the US even has a shot of a good showing is 11 years away.  In Qatar (as it stands now.)

None of this is meant to absolve the players.  Until the last 25 minutes or so, one could have been mistaken for thinking that the US had mistakenly sent a team of USL scrubs.  This is the first time ever that the US lost in Gold Cup group play, and it was a woeful performance all around.  Only Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard had anything approaching a decent night, and I am not absolving them.  Landon Donovan barely registered.  (Yes, I know he had a part in the lone US goal.  I’m still right.)  Once again Jozy Altidore proved me right about his complete inability to perform.  It’s not just about scoring goals; he disappears up front.  And he’s the better of the two forwards.

But Bob Bradley is the root problem.  Team selection is a managerial choice.  Team formation and tactics are managerial choices.  The squad looks to the manager to set the tone.  And if the US squad consistently goes down by a goal or two to weaker teams match after match, then the manager has done something wrong or has not done something right.  Bradley is too stubborn, or too loyal to certain players, or just to limited to change things.  The US National Team is not Barcelona, and its starting XI does not need to be the same match after match, especially since that formation is a proven failure.  The World Cup was exactly the same.

What angers me is not Bob Bradley per se.  He is simply the living embodiment of the Peter Principle, and he has reached his incompetence level.  What angers me is that the USSF refuses to recognize this.  If Brazil underperforms in the Copa America next month, then Mano Menezes will be sacked.  If Spain is humiliated at the European Championships next summer,  Vincente del Bosque will face the wrath of the Spanish.  English coaches become pariahs when the team doesn’t win convincingly enough.  Conversely, when France bombed out at the Euro 2008, Raymond Domenech kept his job even though he cannot manage a team of nine-year-olds.  France paid the price in South Africa.

The signs are clear that Bradley hinders the team’s development.  The Gold Cup should be a wake up call that something needs to change.  Unfortunately, US Soccer does not want to listen.

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3 responses to “Bob Bradley Must Go Now!

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. I created a Facebook called Save American Soccer Fire Bob Bradley in hope that it can muster enough attention to get the talking head, whoever they are, talking about getting rid of this jokester. It is time we stop being complacent and begin asking USSF questions
    .

    • I am 100 % behind everything you say. We do have talent here in the US look at where some of our players play (or have played). We have players in the TOP leagues in Europe and they contribute to successful club seasons. The issue really is the mangaer, like you said he sets the tone, the formation and detemines when a change is needed. Bradley’s sub choices have always baffled me, it seems he subs in the players that should have started and removes those that are performing well. For example Goodson in the Panama Gold Cup match. He scored our goal, was our biggest aerial threat, and instead Bradley takes him off the field instead of Ream who made so many mistakes including ones that cost both goals. If the USSF wants to be mediocre, then they need that to be their mantra, not we will win the World Cup, because if, like you said, they just choose those that are compliant with thier plans US Soccer is in DEEP, DEEP trouble. I say bring on Klinsman as i think his philopshies on producing a world class national team are proven as you see in the rest of the worlds best teams. At this point however I would welcome any other high profile coach to shake things up.

  2. My god! I agree almost word for word.

    I would go further and join the latino community of the US in calling Bradley biased against Latinos. As most soccer players in the US know, the latino community here is futbol crazy. The participation numbers are astonishing in amateur competitions, but since the US soccer system is based on development through very expensive ODP, colleges and private clubs two problems arise.
    One, players start too young in this system and are not allowed to develop their creativity on the field as youth. They’re simply learning highly structured futbol when they should be learning a free flowing creative game such as the street kids in third world countries and European ghettos. This creativity is abundant in the US Latino community as most of the kids grow up playing with friends or in Latino leagues that promote creativity and flare.
    Two, Latinos from poor communities simply cannot afford to play soccer in many cases. The US Olympic Development Program(ODP) is a disgusting example of this. In many states this program has turned into a laughing stock as only players that can afford the time and big $$ involved play. Most Latino families cannot afford the thousands of dollars in fees and expenses and the scholarship programs are laughably underfunded. Colleges and Universities are another road block in developing players. Many Latino players choose not to play college soccer and instead are recruited to play pro in Mexico or Latin America after high school even though they are US citizens. For example, the 2011 Oregon High School 5a champions were Woodburn High handily beating my old high school in the final. 90% of the players are Latino. Not one single player is going to play in college in US. Most are going to play for Mexican clubs. Why?

    I’m hoping some of this will change with the MLS youth programs in place and the open tryouts. It has become obvious that the US is lacking a cohesive plan for funding the development of players, which has caused segregation in a sport that is built on diversity.
    Its frustrating to watch the US team struggle to create any flowing attacking opportunities when the country is oozing with talented midfielders and attackers.

    Where are the Claudia Reynas, Tab Ramos or a Hugo Perez?

    Great Article at change.org:
    The U.S. Soccer Team’s Missing Latinos
    by Prerna Lal · June 25, 2010

    Another great article on CNN.com:
    U.S. soccer ‘needs Hispanic talent’ to succeed
    By Timothy Abraham
    For CNN
    updated 11:30 a.m. EDT, Wed July 1, 2009

    Loved the article, keep it up.

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