New England Soccer Today

Friday Crossfire: Should U.S. Soccer have renewed Bob Bradley’s contract?

Every Friday, New England Soccer Today will tackle a pressing topic in the world of soccer. Each issue will be argued by a different writer each week,  with guest writers periodically appearing to add a bit of flavor to the mix.

This week, the topic is: Should U.S. Soccer have renewed Bob Bradley’s contract? Arguing in the affirmative  is Brian O’Connell, while Sean Donahue presents the dissenting view.

YES. All Bradley’s accomplished during his tenure as team manager is beat Spain en route to a runner-up finish at the Confederations Cup, guided the National Team to a first place finish in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, and clinched a first-place finish at the Group stage of the World Cup. Last U.S. Men’s National Team manager to do all of this: no one.

And let’s not forget that Bradley achieved all of this with a group of largely young players – players like Jose Torres, Maurice Edu, Stuart Holden, and Michael Bradley – all of whom he’s incorporated into a geriatric midfield that was that was effectively euthanized at the World Cup only four years ago.

There’s little debate that in the past three-plus years, Bradley’s built a young, formidable squad that has proven itself on many occasions. And it’s a squad that will only continue to mature during this cycle. The U.S. has a good group of talented players on the roster, and it would be hazardous to disrupt the considerable progress they’ve achieved since the beginning of Bradley’s reign. Bringing in a new manager at this point would unnecessarily interrupt that progress, no matter how experienced or internationally seasoned the prospective manager may be.

Is Bradley the best national team manager on the globe? Of course not. Could the team stagnate under his continued direction? It’s certainly possible. But there would be more work to be done with a completely different hire. And who’s to say a new manager could succeed within the Federation? There are too many variables. The fact is Bob Bradley knows the system, which makes him the best fit for this team going forward. His record speaks for itself, and retaining him is what the National Team needs right now in order to take the next step in achieving greater success in Brazil come 2014.

Bob Bradley had his contract renewed for four years on Monday. (Photo by CHRIS ADUAMA/

NO. U.S. Soccer made the wrong decision in re-hiring Bob Bradley. Yes, Bradley led the U.S. to some historic results, most notably beating Spain in the Confederation Cup Semifinal, but he blew the best chance the U.S. has ever had at advancing to a World Cup semifinal.

In addition to all the preparation matches, Bradley had three group stage games to learn from his team’s successes and failures and figure out his best line-up for the round of 16 match against Ghana. Throughout the tournament the U.S. got off to a poor start and twice Bradley was able to gain an important result by switching up his line-up with some game changing substitutions. Against Slovenia and Algeria, Benny Feilhaber came on at halftime and provided a huge boost in helping the U.S. keep possession and create chances. Maurice Edu, likewise, proved he belonged on the field and Ricardo Clark should stay rooted to the bench after his poor performance against England.

Yet sure enough, Bradley kept Feilhaber and Edu on the bench against Ghana, instead starting Clark and Robbie Findley, both of whom had looked ineffective in prior matches. It seemed to come as no surprise to any follower of the U.S. when Clark was responsible for Ghana’s first goal and then forced Bradley into an early substitution for Edu, leaving Bradley with few options when the game went to overtime. Feilhaber too, replaced Findley at halftime.

Mistakes are understandable, but it is unacceptable for a coach to continually make the same mistakes, especially in a tournament he had the last four years to prepare for. The U.S. should have beat Ghana and moved on to a quarterfinal date against a strong, but beatable Uruguay, instead fans were left wondering yet again what could’ve been.

Historic results and entertaining games may blind the casual observer to the fact that the U.S. were favorites against Slovenia, Algeria, and Ghana, yet struggled needed late goals to get results against the first two and were clearly outplayed and lost to the third. Bradley had his chance and couldn’t deliver. President Sunil Gulati talked about stability being a positive, but Bruce Arena’s second four years ended with the U.S. crashing out of the 2006 World Cup winless. Let’s hope they don’t meet the same fate in 2014.

*Note: The argument made here does not necessarily reflect the writer’s true views on the subject. In some cases a writer will be asked to play devil’s advocate.

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