Bob Bradley has a new four-year contract to coach the U.S. men’s soccer team.
We’ll learn more at noon ET on Tuesday when Bradley and U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati conduct a teleconference in New York City, but here are my three quick thoughts on U.S. Soccer’s decision to extend Bradley’s contract:
• This is something of a surprise. It was always possible that Bradley would return for another World Cup cycle after leading the U.S. to a second-round performance in the recent World Cup in South Africa. But the consensus among U.S. players (including Landon Donovan) and among insiders connected to the team was that Bradley would probably get a nice handshake for meeting (but not exceeding) pre-World Cup expectations and then move on to another coaching gig. The U.S. hasn’t had a foreign coach since 1995, and it seemed as though Gulati might finally land the California-based German Juergen Klinsmann. If Gulati did meet with Klinsmann, as recent reports had indicated, it sounds like Klinsmann either wasn’t interested or (as in 2006) wanted more control than U.S. Soccer was willing to give him.
• There may be conditions attached to Bradley’s staff choices. I’ll be curious to see if Bradley ends up keeping all of his assistants. There was a sense that things got stale toward the end of Bruce Arena’s eight years as the U.S. coach, and Gulati may want there to be some fresh eyes on Bradley’s staff. The last time a U.S. coach was retained after a World Cup was a different situation: Arena had reached the 2002 quarterfinals and was being celebrated as some sort of motivational genius. Though the U.S. did win Group C ahead of England in 2010, Bradley went out in the second round, a 2-1 loss to Ghana that was a winnable game for the United States. Keep in mind, too, that Gulati waited 65 days after the U.S.’s World Cup exit to give Bradley an extension. (By contrast, he waited a couple hours to offer an extension to U.S. women’s coach Pia Sundhage—even getting down on one knee to do so at a team party in Beijing—after her team had won the Olympic gold medal.)
• Gulati is committed to the idea that coaches with knowledge of American soccer have a built-in advantage coaching American soccer players. Bradley and Klinsmann (who has lived in California for more than a decade) appear to have been the only two serious candidates. Gulati has spoken at length over the years about his belief that American soccer players are different from their overseas counterparts and respond better to coaches with knowledge of the American system. Not every U.S. fan will agree with that, and it’s true that anyone who follows U.S. soccer has to be curious about what would happen if one of the world’s most famous soccer coaches—say, Guus Hiddink or José Mourinho—took over the U.S. national team. But that won’t be happening anytime soon now. Gulati has chosen Bradley. Do you think he made the right call?