Six reasons Bob Bradley is right choice

August, 30, 2010
08/30/10
8:45
PM ET

If you listen carefully, you can hear soccer fans around the country emit noises ranging from expletives to guttural grunts.

Bob Bradley, the man unappreciated by many and thought wrong for the job by even more, has signed a contract extension to remain the coach of the U.S. men's national soccer team through the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

And thatís a good thing.

While hiring a coach such as Jurgen Klinsmann might have been the sexier choice, the U.S. Soccer Federation got this one right. Here are six reasons why:

1. Bradley was the best man for the job

Consider first and foremost that there really were only two candidates for this job. One, of course, being the 52-year-old incumbent, who fell into the job after being an interim-caretaker four years ago; the other being Klinsmann, the charismatic former Germany striker and manager, who turned the job down in 2006.

American fans (and indeed U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati) have long been infatuated by the idea of Klinsmann taking the reins of the team. Yet overlooked is the distinct possibility that Klinsmann is wrong for the job. Klinsmann may even sense this, thus explaining his refusal to assume the position on any terms other than gaining absolute control over U.S. soccer.

Klinsmann is all about molding a soccer culture into his liking. As Germany's national coach, he turned Der Mannschaft from a hard-nosed bunch of scrappers to the flamboyant fancy-pants team we see today. He also tried to do the same thing with Bayern Munich, where he took it a step further and imposed yoga on his players and tried to chi and zen out the clubís facilities. Can you see Michael Bradley or Jay DeMerit do a downward-facing dog to get himself pumped before a big game?

2. He's done this job before

Bradley's been through it all with this team. He's lived and breathed the USMNT for an entire World Cup cycle. While some worry that such a long tenure can cause the team to lose its edge, the way it did with Bruce Arena from 1998 to 2006, it could also be a considerable advantage. Things tend to get easier when you're not doing them for the first time.

3. He understands the job

Some argue that knowledge of the U.S. soccer system is overrated, but even Gulati seems to acknowledge through his choice for Bradley that it is a factor. Bradley knows the players through and through, has coached the game at every American level, and now has considerable experience managing in the daunting World Cup qualifying environments the CONCACAF group can throw at a team.

4. He understands his material

The real danger in appointing a foreign coach would have perhaps been his desire to turn the U.S. team into something it's not. Fans complain about the U.S.'s negative tactics and the unappealing way some results were earned. But this is a reflection of the talent (and lack thereof) in recent years. The team has grinded out results based on its strengths. You want beautiful, flowing football? Not from this lot. The U.S. team lacks two good strikers, a playmaker, and a strong defense that can go for long stretches of the game without being shielded by three midfielders.

Despite the squad's shortcomings, Bradley has exceeded expectations . He's no fool. He knows you don't win games on style.

5. Under Bradley, the U.S. has gotten results

While he wasn't born with the flair that some like to see from a manager and has avoided the media spotlight, Bradley has achieved results. He not only got the U.S. to South Africa by winning its CONCACAF qualifying group ahead of Mexico, he motivated his team to the unthinkable: The Americans finished on top of its group at the World Cup, ahead of England. While it's easy to dismiss the U.S.'s second-round loss to Ghana as a missed opportunity, considering how the draw had parted like the Red Sea, Bradley and his men nevertheless made good on the goal that had been set for this team: Advance out of the group stage.

And lest we forget, the U.S. made it to the final of last year's Confederations Cup, too.

6. Bradley meshes well with his players

Speaking to Bradley's players after their ouster from the World Cup in June for a post-mortem, I was struck by their praise for him, his methods, and the system he put in place.

Cynics will say that this is only because he plays favorites among his players and selects those who he gets along with. However, having covered several training camps in which an array of players passed through, I've never had reason to believe that any player was disenchanted with Bradley.

For all those reasons, Bob Bradley is the right man to take the U.S. forward.

I look forward to your hate mail.

Leander Schaerlaeckens

Contributing writer, ESPN.com
Leander Schaerlaeckens is a contributing writer for ESPN.com. He has previously written for The Guardian, The Washington Times and UPI.

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