Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Does the U.S. Really Need to Fire Bob Bradley?

OK, I give. White flag is up. I was wrrrrrr-ong (if you're old enough to remember Happy Days, you know where I'm coming from with that one).

The U.S. men's national team did a great thing Sunday beating Egypt, 3-0. Coupled with Brazil's 3-0 mirror win over Italy, the U.S. is in the Confederations Cup semis, and Italy, which beat the U.S., 3-1, earlier in the tournament, goes home. Likewise Egypt, which tied Italy and the U.S. on points and goal differential.

Yesterday I blogged that if I'm Italy, I'm pissed that I'm going home and the Yanks are going on. You guys slapped me down about my head-to-head contentions, and fine, you're right. The total-goal scenario, I suppose, is the only fair way to break such a unique tie.

[End of apology]

Now on to today's rant. Well, maybe not a rant, but a take or two on Bob Bradley, the U.S. coach. Bradley went from goat to hero overnight following the Egypt win. The U.S. hasn't exactly been mowing 'em down in World Cup qualifying and Bradley's been taking the heat for questionable in-game tactics, poor lineups and shaky substitutions. He was doomed.

But you read the platitudes and listen to the podcasts yesterday, and move over sliced bread, Bob Bradley is the shit.

Or is he shit?

OK, that's harsh. I don't know him; I'll assume he's a good guy and a loyal soldier for the USMNT. In fact, I'll put it out there: What would firing him today, or even tomorrow after the Spain game, accomplish for the U.S.?

We have to assume the U.S. is going to get out of CONCACAF and qualify for South Africa. They're doing so with Bradley in charge, and doing pretty well. If somehow the U.S. manages a decent result against Spain, Bradley gets a reprieve for sure. But if Spain puts up 3-4-or-5 goals, what of Bradley?

I'll say he stays. Why?

Well, if we've established that the U.S. gets out of CONCACAF, Bradley or no Bradley, you have to look ahead and set some expectations for next summer. What's realistic? Getting to the second round of the World Cup? Quarterfinals? Semis?

The U.S. bombed out of the '06 Cup after getting to the quarters in '02. So let's say a realistic goal is the second round. Can they do it with Bradley? Or do they need a Klinsmann type to get there and beyond? Bradley has decent talent, starting with his exceptional son Michael in the midfield, a solid core of keepers and defenders who don't make many glaring errors. Landon Donovan is becoming a leader--finally. All under Bradley.

Bradley is the latest U.S.-born coach in charge of the national team. But has he brought this team as far as he can? England finally broke out of its English-men-only coaching philosophy, and under Fabio Capello, one has to think England looks like one of the favorites for the 2010 title. Why can't the U.S. break out of its mold and hire a successful, viable international coach who can bring the team the rest of the way?

Well, again, it's a matter of realistic expectations: Do you think it is the U.S.' coaching shortcomings are keeping it from moving beyond the second round of the World Cup? If so, then make the move now, win or lose tomorrow. Otherwise, ride the Good Ship Bradley into South Africa and roll the dice.

A lot of questions, I know, but there are no clear answers right now. Those of you who ranted yesterday against me, share with me today your constructive ideas. No legitimate comment will be rejected.

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1 comment:

Jonathan Wallace said...

Good food for thought.

Are we being unreasonable in our expectations of Bradley or not?

The U.S. has the talent, athleticism and drive to compete with the top teams, if coached well. But we're missing one big thing I call maturity (though its related to consistency).

Time and again I see poor decision making from most of our players and I assume its due to their lack of high level games (MLS doesn't count; teams don't punish mistakes in that league because the quality isn't there).

Without this maturity, our team relies on lucky breaks or bounces to win games that we should win handily (Egypt). Or to win/tie games against quality opposition barely like Portugal WC '02 and Italy WC'06. In both instances, we got points because of own goals by the opposition.

Since it will take some time (will it ever happen in the MLS?), before we have a full squad (at least 18 players) that have this maturity through their own experience, we'll have to rely on a coach bringing discipline in terms of tactics and strategy. It will also require the on field leadership of the captains. (Kudos to Landon in this tournament so far!)

So, in my mind, the question is can Bradley lead this team and dictate the disciplined play of the necessary strategy and tactics to get points in the group stages and advance in the knockout rounds?

The answer is currently no. Two red cards in two games?!? The players should have been reamed by their teammates and coach. We consistently give up stupid fouls which costs us points.

Maybe the reaming happened in private which is appropriate but I doubt it, 'cause it continues to happen.

Bradley got lucky against Egypt. I think Brazil's half-time score line inspired the U.S., not the coach.

To give credit where credit is due, his game management was much improved and helped us win the game.

If there's a quality candidate, Bradley should be replaced. But I'll leave with one cavaet.

If he can lead our boys to a strong showing against spain win, lose, or draw, he may have my blessing to continue. :)

p.s. But give Adu some freaking playing time. He's not the best thing since sliced bread and I don't mean give him a whole game against Spain and he still needs to grow and I know he doesn't fit into the appropriate team setup at this time to get results but we need players with that unpredicability if we ever want to make the jump to the top 5. And making such players ride the bench is not encouraging our youth.