A Defense of Bob Bradley

It’s been a few days now since the US was defeated in the Gold Cup final at the hands (feet) of a much superior Mexican side.  Within three nanoseconds of the final whistle, calls for Bradley’s termination rang out everywhere from soccer analysts to members of USMNT supporters groups who have spent one too many hours in their mom’s basement playing World of Warcraft and checking out the latest anime porn videos.  Even US Soccer President Sunil Gulati, who had previously given Bradley his support after the 1-2 defeat to Panama in the group stage, fled the Rose Bowl without giving a press conference in order to avoid, presumably, any questions regarding Bradley’s future (the New York Times claims Gulati will have a statement later this week).  Obviously, this seems to be the most pressing issue for fans and employees of US Soccer alike.  But before we all join the populous, and send Bob to the guillotine, here’s a defense of Mr. Bradley:
Directly after the loss to Panama in the group stage, many followers of US Soccer were calling for Bradley’s termination.  I too wanted to take back the Canal at having to witness our first Gold Cup group stage loss ever, so I sympathize with the initial reactions.  However, after the emotions settled, I realized we were not out of the tournament, and the Gold Cup knockout rounds were still within reach.  Life wasn’t over yet.  More importantly, I noticed how little criticism the players on the field were receiving.  Every single one of them came out lethargic and disinterested.  Even the ball boys looked like they would rather be at the dentist than be there.  That’s the reason we were 2-nil down early on, not because of any tactical errors on Bradley’s part.  Furthermore, people forget that Bradley, DID make changes to tactics and personnel, and for the last 15 minutes, the US was pummeling the Panamanian net, and should have at least come away with a draw had Chris Wondolowski not taken finishing advice from Rocky Baptiste.
Moreover, as the criticism poured on, Bradley regrouped and made the appropriate personnel changes to secure the must win game against Guadeloupe; mainly benching Tim Ream, moving Carlos Bocanegra into the middle of defense, and bringing in Eric Lichaj.  The more cynical critics would point out that we only beat a nation with a population of 76 people, 12 dogs, and a coconut by a single goal.  True enough, but the score should have been at least 3-0 had Clint Dempsey put away a couple of his 4 or 5 chances.  A more careful analysis shows that the tactics were spot on, justified by the enormous amount of chances created.  It was the players who came up short and failed to put the game away, not Bob Bradley.
After advancing into the knockout stages, he continued to deploy the correct personel and tactics, to beat Jamaica 2-0 (it could have been a blow-out had Donovan Ricketts not come up with some timely saves).  Besides a few lapses in defense, the overall performance against Jamaica was maybe the best of the tournament for the US.  This good performance, I believe, prepared the team psychologically, to get revenge against Panama in the semifinals.
It was this game more than any other where Bradley demonstrated his tactical know how, and more importantly, showed that he had balls.  Bradley followed the old saying that “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it,” by leaving Landon Donovan on the bench for the second straight game, sending out the same starting lineup as the one who just beat Jamaica, and sending our golden boy a bold message.  As the first half ended scoreless, Bradley called Landon out of his timeout and told him he could play with all the other kids on the playground now.  Landon was inserted in order to get in behind the Panamanian defenders and specifically, to try to break down two center backs who were fathered by Deebo from “Friday.”  When the game still remained scoreless, Bradley surprised everyone in the stadium by bringing on the USMNT’s prodigal son, Freddy Adu.  If the US had lost this game, Bradley would have been crucified, even more so than he is now, mainly for “wasting” a substitution on a gamble like Freddy.  Bradley put his name, and maybe his career, on the line by bringing in Freddy because he knew it was exactly what the US needed in this game.  Of course, he was rewarded for his courage, as Freddy played a brilliant through ball to set-up the winning goal to book our ticket for the final against our amigos del sur.
Just to let his manhood swing a little bit more, Bradley started Adu in the final against Mexico, and wouldn’t you know it, it worked.  As you probably recall the US went up by 2 goals early (Adu assisted one, and played a part in the other) to take the first lead on Mexico in the entire tournament.  Let me reiterate, Bradley, the coach people want to fire, sent out a team with the proper game plan to take a 2-0 lead on maybe the strongest Mexico side of the past 15 years, a side with far more talent and attacking prowess than our humble yanks, and a side no one else had taken a lead on in the past five games.  Had Bradley not had to make an unwanted defensive change after Steve Cherundolo (our most consistent player all tournament) rolled his ankle in the 11th minute, things might have turned out differently.  As we all know, things went downhill for the US, as Mexico scored four unanswered goals and then paid off the stadium announcer to not speak a word of English in the closing ceremony.  Even though this loss was a tough pill to swallow, aside from bringing on a bunch of prostitutes carrying clenbuterol syringes, could Bradley have done any better under the circumstances?  Tactics are dependent on the notion that your best personnel are available for the entirety of the game.  Losing one of your best players against Mexico, with 80 minutes left to play, is naturally going to disrupt the game plan a little and the players on the field could not cope with the loss of Cherundolo.
From my point of view, it appears Bradley is being criticized most heavily, for not being able to make in-game and in-tournament changes if things are not going the US’ way.  If you were able to get through all of this boring summary of games you already watched (I promise future blogs won’t contain this much summary), I hope you see that this criticism of Bradley is flawed.  He did make personnel and tactical changes in games, and certainly in the tournament, to put the US in the best situation possible.  His adaptability was so successful in fact, that with the same group of players, he went from losing the US’ first Gold Cup group stage match ever, to taking a 2-0 lead in the final against a far stronger team, only to see his side mentally crumble in the face of adversity.  Does that warrant his termination?  I do not even consider myself a Bradley-lover, but the level of criticism seems rather harsh and unwarranted.  If Gulati does in fact fire him, it will be because he is still seeking to sign a ‘big name’ European coach to bolster his own legacy as president of US Soccer.  Regardless the decision, this should be an interesting week indeed.
Tell us what you think.  Who would do better?  Are we taking into account that a new coach would have to work with essentially the same group of players?  Does Bradley deserve this criticism?  Is anyone reading this?

3 Reviews

  1. You make a good argument maxwell. I do agree that he made personnel and tactical changes throughout the course of the tournament(mainly personnel though as he kept the same formation most of the tournament). I think his decisions to bring on bedoya, kljestan, freddy, and lichaj were all great. All these players played well WHEN GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY. He seemed to change most parts of the lineup throughout the tournament except for Tim Howard, Goodson, and the center midfield. Interesting that his son's position is one of the places that was never changed. Coincidence? I think not. We can debate this point at another time. I'll get back to my persecution of Bradley #1. I would agree that it is the responsibility of the players to play the game but the coach is responsible for preparing and motivating the players. I have been on teams where we were not the best in the competition but our coach came up with a game plan that would work and motivated us to execute. (this was my hs team which finished third in our league then went on to win CIF). Finally, if you go up 2-0 in a game you have to expect to win the game. At least make defending the priority; defense wins championships. If you look at Bradley #1's quotes from after the game he was hoping to get a third goal before half after going up 2-0. http://www.ussoccer.com/News/Mens-National-Team/2011/06/Post-Match-Quotes-USA-vs-MEX.aspx

  2. All valid points Mr Tuna. But don't you think that losing Cherundolo was a struck of bad luck that ruined the defense and ruined us winning the Cup because it meant Bornstein HAD to play? I think we can all agree nobody wanted to see his number being lit up on the 4th official's board, especially not in the 11th minute.

  3. losing cherundulo was very unlucky and there was nothing that bob bradley could do about that. if he doesnt get hurt then the game may/probably would have gone differently. maybe leave lichaj at left back and put borenstein on at right?

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