Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bye Bye Bob: But Imagine if the US had Fallen to No. 37

Today the United States Soccer Federation announced that it had parted ways (fired) US Men's National Team Coach Bob Bradley. The Era of Bob Bradley began after the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany where the US failed to get out of their group. The poor showing in Germany resulted in Bruce Arena being fired and Bob Bradley being named interim coach, and then, in 2007, being named coach.

Those familiar with my opinion know that I'm not a big fan of Bob Bradley, never have been. I gave him the benefit of the doubt in 2007, pleased he coached the US to a Gold Cup finals victory and giving him a pass on the type of squad he had no choice but to take to the Copa America (anyone notice Mexico had to do the same thing this year thanks to FIFA player vacation rules?). It was the horrible losses to Brazil and Italy in the 2009 Confederations Cup group stage that turned me against Bradley, realizing he was not the guy to take the US to the next step in the world of international football. While many will remember Bradley for the US's win against Spain in the Confederations Cup semifinals, it's those two group stage losses that are most representative of his tenure.

The sins of the Bradley tenure were clear for all to see: questionable roster decisions, conservative play, poor substitution decisions, poor defense, poor in match tactical decisions, lack of backbone in dealing with foreign clubs.

Soccer House should have given Bradley his walking papers after the World Cup finals in South Africa in 2010; instead, they gave him a contract extension. Speculation that Bradley was out as US coach hit a high point again in June when the USMNT had a lackluster showing in the group stage of the Gold Cup and then lost, 4-2, to Mexico in the final.

US Soccer is set to make an announcement on Friday. Speculation is that Soccer House will announce the hiring of Jürgen Klinsmann as coach, that Soccer House had quietly taken the month since the embarrassing loss to Mexico to search for a coach and/or come to terms with Klinsmann. If that's what happened, I have to give Soccer House credit for doing so totally under the radar. Yes, US Soccer fan was distracted by the 2011 Women's World Cup finals in Germany, but let's be honest, it's still amazing that such could occur without any leak.

I suspect that Bob Bradley's firing was more a result of the United States falling to No. 30 in the most recent FIFA rankings, which were released on Wednesday. Say what you will about the rankings, but they are important to Soccer House (just as polls are important to the politicians who say they don't care about polls), and a 6 place drop in the rankings was more than Sunil Gulati and friends could stomach. If this is the case, Friday's announcement may concern the process by which Soccer House will go about its search for a new coach for the Men's National Team.

If my suspicion is correct, I ask Soccer House to show some guts and imagination by performing a broad and extensive search for a coach that has what it takes to push US Soccer forward.

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