Arena Defends Bradley; Gardner Bashes Both

Last week, Bruce Arena came out in defense of his old friend and former assistant Bob Bradley in the wake of Bradley’s contract saga with the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Among other things, Arena said that Bradley did not get the support he deserved from U.S. Soccer, and that the USMNT needs an American coach, someone “who understands the American way.”

He wrapped up his remarks with the following:

“Bob can put 11 players on the field as well as anyone and get the best out of them. I will tell you now: We are not winning the World Cup in 2014, whoever is in charge.

“People need to be realistic. The best thing [the critics] can do is shut up. A bunch of people get on the internet and start stirring things up and it snowballs. Just let him do his job.”

That last volley got to Soccer America writer Paul Gardner—who, by the way, was in the same recent U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame class as Arena.

Gardner rightly points out that, compared to national-team coaching jobs elsewhere in the world, the U.S. post is practically criticism-free. He then casts doubt on the need for an American coach of the USMNT, and takes Bradley to task for his evasive (and boring) style at press conferences.

But when he launches what is, as far as we can tell, his primary criticism of the Bradley regime, he stumbles.

Here it is: 

“Bradley, an intelligent man, must surely … see that if he doesn’t become a good deal more adventurous in his selection of players, then he will preside over another four-year span of average performances followed by a disappointing World Cup.”

Become a good deal more adventurous in his selection of players’—really, Paul? What does that mean?

Bradley looked at 92 players in his first four-year cycle. Which ones did he miss? 

Is there some vast untapped pipeline of U.S. talent out there? Please, do U.S. Soccer a favor and identify its whereabouts.

You want adventure? Bradley took Robbie Findley to South Africa (and got criticized for this outside-the-box, adventurous selection). He held the door open as long as possible for Charlie Davies and Jermaine Jones.

He also, at various times, called in Marcus Tracy, Frank Simek, and Jeremiah White (who is plying his trade in Poland right now).

He also stuck with—and got two good World Cup games out of—the much-maligned Jonathan Bornstein.

The default criticism here is that Hispanic-American players aren’t given enough of a look by U.S. Soccer. Bradley looked at Edgar Castillo, Alejandro BedoyaJose Francisco Torres, and Herculez Gomez this cycle, with the latter two making the trip to South Africa. Michael Orozco was called in for a 2008 qualifier.

No, we don’t think the conservative-player-selection charge holds water. Bradley did not leave a stone unturned.

It’s true that no coach is above criticism, and that Bradley tends to circle the wagons when facing the press.

It’s also true that he came in for more than his share of heat from the soccer nation before, during, and after the 2010 World Cup.

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2 comments on “Arena Defends Bradley; Gardner Bashes Both

  1. RefBaiter says:

    Paul Gardner is an absolute dinosaur. Its as if he has form columns that he dredges up. This is not US Soccer circa 1990. As you rightly point out, Bradley brought in over 90 players. Castillo is a poor man’s version of Bornstein. Torres is good, but is not the two way midfielder we need him to be. Indeed, you could argue he is a poor man’s Feilhaber. Its indisputable that Bradley’s reliance on guys like Clark was a mistake, however.

  2. […] notion that he was too narrow in player selection holds no water, as we’ve argued before (he tried out 92 players in his first four-year cycle), and the charge that nepotism, not ability, […]

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