US Soccer announced today a parting of the ways with head coach Bob Bradley. The NYT reports:
Fairly or unfairly, frequent criticisms of Bradley began to resurface: he was too conservative, favored players like his son Michael, did not develop a sufficiently creative attacking style, and coached a team that often fell behind early and had to catch up using fitness and determination rather than technical skill.Speculation of course has begun as to his replacement. At ESPN Jeff Carlisle argues that the recent US team performance, particularly in the recent Gold Cup, was an important factor in the change, but suggests that there is more as well:
Bradley achieved some impressive results while building a 43-25-12 record since 2007, including a defeat of top-ranked Spain at the 2009 Confederations Cup, where the Americans finished second to Brazil, and finishing atop group play at the 2010 World Cup. Still, there was a sense of underachievement about the World Cup, given the favorable draw for the United States, which departed with a sense of missed opportunity.
But amidst all this there was an even bigger issue, namely Gulati's long-held desire to hire a big name and put his personal stamp on the national team program. It explains his long flirtation with Juergen Klinsmann, who was his first choice in both 2006 and 2010 before finally settling for Bradley. And more than anything it explains Gulati's timing. There is relatively little downside to making a change now. World Cup qualifying doesn't start until next year. There is no Confederations Cup to plan for. And given the USSF's ability to schedule quality friendlies, there would seem to be ample opportunity for a new coach to get up to speed.I for one am pulling for Klinsmann.
That said, there are risks. The fact of the matter is that a new coach can't all of a sudden pick a new squad of players. The ebb in talent that seems to be afflicting the U.S. player pool at the moment isn't going to disappear. And if Gulati does opt for a foreign coach, which seems likely, some cultural assimilation will need to take place, which can be tricky.
So who are the leading candidates? As incredible as it may seem, Klinsmann has to be considered given his familiarity with the soccer culture in this country. Italian World Cup-winning coach Marcelo Lippi is another name that has been bandied about, as has Frank Rijkaard, although given the fact that he just signed on as Saudi Arabia's coach, he would have to be considered a darkhorse candidate.