Thursday, August 24, 2006

In Limbo: Jeff's Bradley New Editor

by Tim Froh

(the article from which this edition of In Limbo is taken, can be found here).

It has been the loudest and most consistent cry of Jeff Bradley in the wake of the U.S. national team's three-and-out performance in the World Cup:

"The U.S. now needs to hire my brother, Bob Bradley."

What a load of garbage.

The reality is, the coach of the U.S. national team needs to be the person best suited for the job. And if not the best person, then at the very least the second best.

Why the best person suited for the job? There are so many reasons.

In case you haven't been paying attention, coaching the U.S. national team is a pretty unique challenge. Did you hear Bruce Arena whining recently (and not so recently) about the position? Lack of facilities. Lack of a top-flight professional league. Lack of meaningful MLS games. His bitch list goes on beyond that, too.

Most are the complaints of a frustrated and bitterly disappointed egomaniac.

Truth be told, Arena coached the U.S. national team during the best of times in American soccer history. A pro league is better than no league at all. A subpar national training center is better than no national training center. A small but growing fanbase is better than no fanbase. Arena deserves some credit for actually finding something to complain about during the "best times in American soccer history." But, more than just patting himself on the back, Arena felt he needed to stab his "friend" Sunil Gulati in the back too.

And there would be no better way for Gulati to get back then by naming a new American coach.
Seems the most vocal among those who are clamoring for Bob Bradley do not believe there are any other viable candidates for the position. Again, a load of garbage.

In replacing Arena, U.S. Soccer is replacing the greatest coach in the nation's recent soccer history. Now, take a look at Arena's background and how he came into the position.

Arena was named the coach in '98 because he'd won at the University of Virginia and he'd won at D.C. United. Now, ask yourself this, did Arena win at UVA because he was a great coach or because he and his staff were able to recruit the best players in the country? Did he win at D.C. United because he was a great coach or because the league was quite a bit different back then? Think about the core of the great D.C. United teams. Marco Etcheverry. Jaime Moreno. John Harkes. Jeff Agoos. Those were all players gifted to D.C. and Bruce Arena by MLS HQ. Arena coached D.C. for three years and never had to disassemble his core and retool because of the salary cap. That was left to the coaches who followed him, including the Polish born Piotr Nowak, who looks to match Arena's success of two MLS Cup titles in three years. Point is, Arena's success in American soccer may have been the reasons he was named to the post. But, when you look back, his success was not earth-shattering.

As Arena might say himself. "But there's not a team in this league as talented as the D.C. United teams I had."

When you examine it closely, Arena did a poor job coaching the U.S. because, while it was his dream job, he stopped believing in the American player. He was patriotic about the whole thing, except when it came to showing respect for other nations. He was willing to deal with a difficult system, but when the going got tough, he blamed everyone but himself. He was willing to do whatever it was going to take, unless that involved changing his system. In short, he was the quintessential American.

Mostly because he was American.

Now, it's time to find the best coach out there. A guy who will: look at the job as a dream job and not a stepping stone to something bigger and better. Not a guy who will throw up his hands when he's watching a mid-July afternoon game in Houston or Dallas and wonder what the heck it is he's watching.

Who's the right guy? Let U.S. Soccer sit down and grill the candidates and decide. Let U.S. Soccer ask the candidates about the player pool, after giving them a fair chance to study the player pool. Let U.S. Soccer ask the candidates about who they see as the best up-and-coming young players, after giving them a fair chance to look at those players.

And then decide who is most worthy.

Don't just bring in a bunch of American guys who've won in MLS or college and fallen in love with their resumes. If they don't know what's going on in international soccer, then what good are they going to do for the U.S. national team?

When you get right down to it, the national team job is probably 90 percent about player selection anyway. And, a guy who's going to have to take a few weeks to get just a basic handle on the American personnel does stand a good chance of making the right selections. Doesn't he?
American soccer has changed a lot since the day Arena took over the national team. That cannot be argued. But the coach of the U.S. national team still has to have a feel for all there is that makes American soccer what it is, and how it can become a part of "The World's Game." Bring in a guy from a country where there's soccer and only soccer and he's going to have a lot to say that could improve the American game. Think a qualified coach is going to want to take the time to watch college soccer? The USL? Think he's going to have a really good feel for the American system of player development -- or the lack thereof? The answer is, in a word, yes.

The U.S. is entering a critical stage in its soccer development. The national team has risen for the past eight years because of its growing popularity and a core of very talented young players.
Now, U.S. Soccer needs to recognize that they have to find the best candidate for the job.

Comments on "In Limbo: Jeff's Bradley New Editor"


Blogger scaryice said ... (2:59 PM, August 24, 2006) : 

Bradley is the closest guy to Arena that you could possibly find. If Arena's not good enough, then why would he be?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:05 AM, August 28, 2006) : 

Look, Bradley should definitely be under consideration. He is a good coach, who understands teh situation. I also don't think that Jeff Bradley has been calling for his brother, just that he thinks that an American should coach the team (whether that is Sigi, Jeff, but he also leaves room I believe for somebody like Yallop, Nicol, Nowak, Klinsman!! etc.). I do believe that the US is kind of unique in how fragmented the soccer landscape is, and having an American based coach would have its benefits. We'll see though, but definitely hire the most qualified candidate, and teh one with the most passion.


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