Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bye Bye, Bob


As much as this move was warranted and as much as many U.S. supporters wanted to see it happen, my first reaction to the news that Bob Bradley had been fired was that.

U.S. Soccer hasn't sacked a coach since 1998, and before that... well, that might as well be ancient history, right?

That stability, for good or bad, was what made the U.S. unique. Keeping coaches in place for a long time, growing the team slowly and getting to where the team wanted to be with a methodical approach to the process. This wasn't Mexico where there's been a revolving door with coaches or really most other national teams, where that seems to be the case.

So when the announcement dropped like an atomic bomb on Thursday afternoon, I was stunned. Not that it happened but that the federation fired its coach.

Was it the right move? I would find it difficult to argue that it was not. I would find it very difficult to buy anybody's argument that this move did not need to happen. It happened for three reasons, to me anyway...

* Results - The U.S. lost the last two Gold Cup finals, by a combined score of 9-2, to Mexico. The one in '09 was atrocious but the one last month cost the U.S. a chance to participate in the 2013 Confederations Cup. Unpardonable.

* Roster choices - Any manager of any national team around the world is faced with this criticism. "For God's sake why wasn't _____ called up to the team??!?!?" I fill in the blank with Chad Marshall, Todd Dunivant, Omar Gonzalez... not coincidentally, those guys are all defenders. To me the biggest problem with Bradley's teams were the defense was like a sieve. He pinned his hopes on Oguchi Onyewu and when Onyewu got hurt and was unable to recover and is still not back to his old self (which incidentally, he was never a dominant defender and was never going to be one, people were just enamored with his size), Bradley was lost. Jay DeMerit, Clarence Goodson, Tim Ream and Carlos Bocanegra were all shuffled in and none could do much to prevent opponents from scoring.

* Bleak Future - I do believe that had Bradley stayed the future would have been bleak. As I wrote in my previous post, take the Gold Cup results against CONCACAF teams - wins over Canada, Guadeloupe, Jamaica and losses to Panama and Mexico - and translate that into the Hexagonal while replacing Guadeloupe with Honduras and Canada or Jamaica with Costa Rica and the U.S. had a realistic chance of not qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Losing World Cup qualifying matches at home is the best way to not qualify for the World Cup and the U.S. cannot afford to drop points at home.

This move was certainly stunning in the timing of it and that it happened but the reasons behind it were warranted. That goes without saying.

Bradley did a fine job with the U.S. overall though and it's important to recognize that. It was incredibly risky playing without the stars against Mexico in February 2007 but came away with a strong 2-0 win, and the team followed that up with a 2-1 win over El Tri in the Gold Cup final in 2007. The Confederations Cup 2009 run was unexpected while winning the group in the 2010 World Cup was also unexpected and pleasing to U.S. fans.

But it's time to move on. Actually, it was time to move on after the World Cup but moving on now gives renewed hope that the team will regain its stature and composure by the time World Cup qualifying begins in 2012.

Hope. That's something that hasn't been around the team since last summer.

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