Opinion: A Semantic Reflection on Bob Bradley’s Retainment
After the United States’ poor 2006 World Cup campaign, Sunil Gulati and the national federation sacked (somewhat) legendary coach Bruce Arena. 2006 was a critical point in US soccer history not only because the national team performed so poorly with so much momentum carried over from 2002’s stellar campaign on the line, but because the national federation was going to make a splash, assert itself as a force to be reckoned with by hiring a cultured manager who could resonate the part.
Gulati would hire a cultured manager to replace Arena, just not the manager we were expecting to be hired. Fantasies of Jurgen Klinsmann quickly washed away with the onset reality of Bob Bradley. The national federation chose to hire a coach– albeit a very good one with experience at every major level of American soccer– over a manager.
Four years passed with its ups and downs (which I don’t need to describe), and Bradley was retained again over Klinsmann just weeks ago. We can all venture over why the national federation retained Bradley again– it could have been a combination of money, power, leverage, etc.– but one thing is apparently clear in US soccer: everything ultimately boils down to semantics.
While other successful countries centralize their elite youth development, our system is often too fragmented and underdeveloped. While our league Americanizes the game as much as it needs to (albeit not as bad as the NASL, so credit there), the rest of the world plays to a level we can never reach.
And while we retain a coach to lead our national team, the rest of the world employs managers who dress as seriously as their job entails.
This post is not elaborate or eloquent by any means, but I hope my belief that our national programme needs deep introspection can be generally accepted. Sometimes it seems like the American soccer conundrum is not only a matter of physical differences and talent gulfs, but a matter of essence. Even though the American soccer situation is certainly unique, our national federation has to accept our humble place in the footballing world and overhaul the way we think.
When we finally secure the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, it’s time for the academic Gulati to go. If we aren’t going to afford our first team coach managing abilities, then it’s time to let our managers go as we rebuild the national team. Even though talents such as Lichaj, Agbossoumonde, Lletget, and Gil provide hope for US Soccer’s future, our national federation still has not succeeded in its sole task of finding the 23 best players to represent the US shirt.
If US Soccer’s problem is one of talent and macro-level management, then direct your Bob Bradley-vitriol elsewhere. Coach Bradley only coaches the players he is given, and he did a decent job coaching them up in the various international competitions the US participated in. He can’t bless Robbie Findlay with a deft first touch or Onyewu with better fitness and pace.
Our national federation had the opportunity to secure Jurgen Klinsmann’s services in 2006 or 2010 had they been willing to concede managerial power. Since it’s apparent that they aren’t willing to give up that power, I just don’t see Bradley’s retainment as anything controversial or news-worthy.
Bradley’s has done a good job working within the constraints that national team puts on him. If we aren’t willing to afford our managers any more power, who’s to say we should expect better?
Ed. Note: I made some changes here and there. If you notice them, thanks.
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