U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati and Bob Bradley met in Los Angeles on Thursday, but no decision was made regarding Bradley’s future as head coach of the U.S. national team, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions.
The source also indicated that the meeting was never intended to produce a decision regarding Bradley’s status, and instead was meant to be a debrief of the U.S. team’s performance at the World Cup, the second such meeting the two have had since the Americans were eliminated by Ghana in the second round.
No timetable has been set for when Bradley’s situation will be resolved.
Seemingly no one knows anything about the negotiations that are not taking place about the U.S. manager position.
We do know, however, that Bob Bradley is interested in opportunities in Europe. The only reason to reveal this tidbit is because Bradley is, well, interested in opportunities in Europe.
But from the Federation’s perspective, if they don’t think that Bradley is the best man for the position by now, they will never know. It’s almost three months since the U.S. was knocked out of the World Cup. That’s enough time to digest what happened. In fact, it’s enough time to draw out a cartoon, frame-by-frame, of Team USA’s adventure in South Africa.
So what are these people talking about?
My masters degree in people watching tells me that Bob Bradley is done. He’s publicly looking for a job without burning bridges. Someone who is primarily interested in staying at a job doesn’t look publicly. Fair enough. But Sunil Gulati and the Federation are seemingly Bradley’s bunkmates in limbo. While it’s fair to assume that one can’t announce any developments where none exist, as the days turn to months, you have to begin wondering about U.S. soccer’s ability to properly plan for the future. As we start getting closer to the next international date with no movement, the smell of confusion starts to burn the nostrils.
Let’s go back to Bradley’s introduction. Bradley was initially appointed interim manager as the U.S. Soccer Federation tried to secure Jurgen Klinsmann. When the Klinsmann thing didn’t work out, Bradley was offered and accepted the job full-time. And the statements of confidence and support followed, as they should have.
But what happened raises a fundamental question: How do you go from Klinsmann to Bradley? Without questioning either manager’s pedigree, the two men are philosophically night and day.
If you think that Klinsmann and Bradley are the same type of manager interested in developing similar playing styles, perhaps there is no issue. But if you think that these managers would go in two different directions, we have an issue, not with the managers, but with the body doing the hiring.
Coaches have skill sets, and teams have needs and areas that require attention. A coach’s strengths should match a team’s needs. Simple as. But someone needs to define the needs, the direction, and the destination. If Klinsmann and Bradley are on the table at the same time, there needs to either be a rationale as to how each of these men fills a need and provides the direction to a destination, or there was no direction or destination in the first place. In fact, it makes one wonder whether the need was defined beyond narrowly needing a manager who knows the system. Our needs are an open book and they aren’t always tied to poor technique. We need to get better getting forward. We need to become more proficient building our attack through midfield. We need to improve our finishing. We need to work on possessing the ball and controlling the tempo of the game. Simply put, there are people better equipped than others to address these needs.
Bradley was a reactionary hire. That isn’t to say that his results were horrible. Quite the contrary. Bradley took the opportunity and led a successful cycle, especially if results are the measure of success. But his hiring on the back of courting Klinsmann showed little vision. It’s like saying, “Well if not Barack Obama, I’ll take John McCain.” It shows an inability to understand that the leader you choose shows what you’ve highlighted as your biggest needs, and further dictates the direction you think is required to get to the next level.
Hopefully, the Federation gets the process right this time. I’m assuming that Bradley is not the first pick. We don’t know the other names that the Federation may be considering to be his successor. But even if the Federation doesn’t have a clue, they should know the direction that’s needed. We’ve been watching this group now for four years. If there are not clear ideas regarding where we need to go, something is desperately wrong.
If Bob Bradley, after almost three months of stagnation, ends up manager, he’ll deserve our unconditional support. But that shouldn’t mean that the Federation should get off without a hiding if it still can’t or won’t articulate the team’s needs, direction and destination, and how Bradley has the skills to do the specific job defined.
Bob Bradley deserves better. So do we. To ask for a little vision isn’t asking a lot.
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