Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bob Bradley's extension proves the United States is fine with just being the United States

I was sitting at my desk at work Monday night when the sports editor at my newspaper got up from his desk, walked down the isle and quietly asked, “Did you hear they re-signed Bradley?” I had no idea what he was talking about, never once even considering that he could have been speaking of the United States Men’s Soccer Team’s Bob Bradley. Especially after this post we had a few weeks ago.

But alas, it was him. The news broke that the manager received a four year extension on his contract, solidifying him as the leader of America’s 2014 squad at the next World Cup. From the press release announcing he signed an extension…
CHICAGO (Aug. 30, 2010) – U.S. Soccer has agreed to a four-year contract extension with U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley. Bradley led the U.S. to an undefeated record in group play at the 2010 FIFA World for the first time en route to a first-place group finish for the first time in 80 years. After finishing the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying cycle with more goals than any other team in the world, Bradley will again be at the helm through qualifying and the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Well, that’s one way too look at it. For another…
…The question now remains if this was the right move or should USA Soccer have gone after (German legend, Jurgen) Klinsmann or someone else. Well, while I may be proven wrong in four years, here is why I think that Klinsmann would have been the better choice.
1. It’s Time For A Change – Even if a manager wins a World Cup, it’s almost necessary to make a change with a national team every four years. Bradley did a good job in his four years but it’s clear that there were mistakes during the 2010 World Cup and a need to change it up. The history of coaches staying on for two consecutive World Cup is not good and most do worse in their second World Cup (just remember Bruce Arena). Bringing in someone new (like Klinsmann) would help to bring new energy and life into the team.
2. Klinsmann Is No Stranger To USA Soccer – Many have argued that Klinsmann would not work out because he’s German and it’s best to have a manager who’s American. This kind of thinking is a bit simplistic and not always true. While Klinsmann is German, he’s been living in the USA for several years, and even helped out with the Galaxy for a bit. It wouldn’t be the same as a manager who has been with a club in Europe and he knows about the national team. Klinsmann is probably the most Americanized foreign manager that USA Soccer could hire.
There are more reasons and much more expansion from the piece if you click here (which really is a must-click if you care at all about this kind of stuff). The above material and subsequent list as to why the choice was wrong is the popular opinion. It seems that the general consensus is that if this wasn’t an all-out “bad” move, then it was certainly a “safe” move. And depending on your outlook, “safe” is nothing more than a synonym for “bad,” anyways.

Me? Count me in the majority. One aspect of this not listed in the above material is the United States’ reluctance to decide on Bradley quickly. If they were going to stay with him, they should have signed him on immediately after the World Cup concluded. If they were going to get rid of him, they should have made that clear by the time we got crushed in that friendly against Brazil. To wait like this shows that the people behind the scenes didn’t and don’t have the utmost confidence that Bradley is the right guy. And that’s a problem. Especially when you have someone like Klinsmann – one of the greatest international players of the last 20 years – waiting in the wings. Who cares if he is German? Honestly, though.

This is a pure sign of being content with mediocrity. The Americans set getting out of group play as the biggest and only goal at the 2010 World Cup. That happened, but not with assurance. Yes, the United States won its group for the first time in 80 years, but Bradley and his boys could have easily been on the outside looking in. The poor performance in the knockout stage only reiterated how far away we are from the rest of the world in terms of advancement of skill. It should now be unacceptable to not win a match in the second round of a World Cup. Extending Bradley only extends an unfair (to fans) rationale that suggests a best-case scenario that features losing. And if he continues to refuse to move away from that 4-4-2 formation, advancing in any tournament will not be guaranteed. That was proven by two instances in July in which he was forced to make substitutes early in the second half, a clear admittance that his initial decisions were poor.

All that said, at least he was at the head of a team that gave us this..

Best sports moment of the year. Without any doubt.

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