Looking Back at the Bradley Era

We are probably going to learn the name of Bob Bradley’s successor today, but before we welcome Jürgen Klinsmann (we’d take it, and it seems most likely) or Marcelo Lippi  (could be very interesting) or Guus Hiddink  (yes!) or Sigi Schmid (fine) or Peter Nowak (we’d also take it) or Rafael Benitez (no!), let’s take a quick look back at Bradley’s nearly five years in charge.

Record: 43-25-12. That’s a 53.75 winning percentage, second-best all-time behind Bruce Arena’s 65.8. (And Bradley was 62.9 through 2010; a 4-4-2 2011 brought his mark down.)

Highs:

• Reaching the 2009 Confederations Cup final with a crucial three-goal win over Egypt in group play and a shocking 2-0 upset of Spain in the semifinals.

• Winning Group C at the 2010 World Cup, becoming first coach ever to lead a U.S. team to a WC group title in the modern era.

• Winning CONCACAF region in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup; defeating Mexico in 2007 Gold Cup final

Lows:

• Giving Ricardo Clark a surprise start in the Round of 16 game against Ghana at the 2010 World Cup, only to see Clark make a bad early turnover that led directly to a goal. Failing to win that game and take advantage of a historically favorable knockout-round draw at SA 2010.

• Teams fell into maddening habit of giving away early goals. Did so against England, Slovenia, and Ghana at South Africa 2010, and nearly did against Algeria, which hit the bar in the first five minutes of final group-play game against the U.S.

• Gold Cup 2011: Loss to Panama in group play and surrender of 2-0 lead against Mexico in final to lose 4-2. This was the last straw.

Thumbnail Assessment:

Bradley took more flak than any USMNT coach in history, partly because there was simply more attention paid to this team than any other, due to the growth of the sport, and partly because … well, haters gonna hate, we guess.

Most of it was unwarranted, in our view. Bradley may have been a little stiff with the press, and slightly conservative with his tactics, but he did pretty well with the talent he had to work with and he achieved some historic results (see highs, above).

The 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, kept Bradley’s son Michael in the starting lineup is equally inaccurate.

The younger Bradley has more European top-flight experience than the majority of players in the U.S. pool, and he was remarkably consistent for the Yanks—not to mention one of their best players at South Africa 2010.

As his record suggests, Bob Bradley was the second-best coach in USMNT history, and his players always fought for him.

Here are a few of them, reacting to the news on Twitter:

Stuart Holden: Morning! Want 2 thank Bob Bradley 4 everything he did the last 5 years & 4 giving me an opportunity w national team! Wish him the best!

Jozy Altidore: Yes i heard the news tweet fam and I Wish Bob Bradley nothing but the best in the future. #esoesfutbol

Charlie Davies: Wishing Bob Bradley the best of luck. He helped me become a better player and person.

Aaaaannnd, a counterpoint:

Brian Ching: Some days just put a smile on your face.

[Ouch.]

What ever Bradley’s faults and successes, we felt like now was a good time for a change. Staleness had set in, and the next coach will have plenty of time to make an impact before World Cup qualifying begins next fall.

As for who that coach will be, well, Alexi Lalas tweeted the following this morning:

Good morning. Think I’ll spend today looking for an umlaut key on my computer and phone.

Let the Speculation Begin: Who Will Replace Bradley as USMNT Coach?

Klinsmann?

Lippi?

This guy?

Many names have been bandied about, from Argentines Jose Pekerman and Marcelo Bielsa to Italian Marcello Lippi to German Jurgen Klinsmann to MLS bosses Jason Kreis, Steve Nicol and Peter Nowak.

We asked some Backpost readers for their predictions. Here’s what they came up with:

RefBaiter: “I’ll go with Klinsmann, but I also say that he won’t be able to miraculously improve our players’ skill or tactical play. He won’t suddenly develop a left back for the U.S.”

Abes Army: “I say Pekerman. Hard to see them bringing on another MLS coach now. The timing is good here for a change. One year until WCQs begin. Three friendlies right around the corner are a good chance to see the player pool.”

Prison Mike: “The Most Interesting Man in the World could develop a left back. He could play left back. When he’s in Rome, Romans do as he does. … I think player selection is a big part of the equation. Not that Bradley did a terrible job on that, but a fresh perspective couldn’t hurt.”

Colorado Keeper: “Maradona! … And I’m fine with this change. Few countries would have stuck with Bradley after the loss to Ghana.”

Old27: “Klinsmann.”

Carolina Cannon: “Jose Mourinho. Unless they can pry Hans Backe away from the Red Bulls. Okay, Klinsmann.”

Abes Army: “Andres Cantor says it’s going to be Lippi.”

There you have it. Let us know your prediction, or preference, for the job in the comments. And stay tuned for tomorrow.

The Other Shoe Drops: Bradley Fired As U.S. Coach

When last we heard from him on the subject, back in early July after the Gold Cup final, U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said a statement regarding USMNT coah Bob Bradley’s future would be forthcoming that week.

Then Gulati fell silent, and the topic receded to the background.

Today, it’s back, front and center, as Gulati and the USSF released a statement saying that Bradley has been “relieved of his duties” as national team coach. Here’s some more from the official release:

“We want to thank Bob Bradley for his service and dedication to U.S. Soccer during the past five years. During his time as the head coach of our Men’s National Team he led the team to a number of accomplishments, but we felt now was the right time for us to make a change. It is always hard to make these decisions, especially when it involves someone we respect as much as Bob. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

There is certain to be much more to follow on this, including another announcement from the federation tomorrow.

Neymar Creates A Whole New Way of Skinning A Defender

We’re pretty sure the maneuver Neymar puts on the last defender here is unprecedented in the annals of spectacular soccer goals, but take a look and judge for yourself:

Combined with the magic he uses to scorch the two opponents on the sideline at the start of the sequence, the finishing flourish makes this an instant icon in the history of great goals. And Neymar is 19 years old, just for the record.

The top commenters on the YouTube clip of the goal may have said it best:

 “What in the actual fuck was that”

AND

“It’s times like this I remember he’s 19, and I’m here on my computer getting fat.”

But here’s the kicker: Neymar’s goal put Santos up 3-0 on Flamenco,  but Flamenco, spurred by a hat-trick from Ronaldinho, came charging back, tied the game up before halftime, and eventually won, 5-4.

H/T’s to the Carolina Cannon and Seeling the Deal.

Riquelme Dream Deferred Again: Forlan, Suarez Lead Uruguay to Copa America Title

It’s been a good 12 months for Uruguay. After reaching the semifinals of last summer’s World Cup in South Africa, the Sky Blues won a record 15th Copa America title, cruising past Paraguay 3–0 in Sunday night’s final.

Luis Suarez opened the scoring in the 12th minute with a nice finish off the far post, and Diego Forlan added another one just before halftime. Forlan icied the match with his second in the final minutes.

Highlights here:

The downside, of course, is that you-know-who will be keeping her clothes on, for the most part, in public for the foreseeable future.

Breaking: Judah Friedlander, World Champion, Banned from MLS All-Star Game

You may know him as Frank Rossitano from NBC’s 30 Rock, but Judah Friedlander is much more than an actor on an Emmy Award–winning sitcom.

He’s also the World Champion (after winning the World Championships), a master of the martial arts, and an accomplished soccer player who was kicked off the Brazilian national team for scoring a bicycle kick off his own corner kick.* The play showed up his teammates so much that they voted him off the team.

Additionally, Friedlander had been scheduled to play in this Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game against Manchester United. But his presence would have required goalkeepers to don Kevlar vests and helmets* for their protection, a measure deemed to costly by league honchos, so Friedlander was barred from the event.

He did tape this explanatory video, though:

*These facts courtesy of Friedlander, from his appearance on ExtraTime Radio, here.

Brek Shea Welcomes Torsten Frings to MLS

In a moment that fans of the U.S. national team hope to see repeated often this year, former German international Torsten Frings—the man whose uncalled handball prevented a U.S. goal in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinal—was torched in a sequence that led to a goal in his MLS debut for Toronto FC.

Rising American star Brek Shea of FC Dallas did the honors, shedding Frings and launching a run before finishing with a lethal strike off the post.

Check it out:

Shea’s goal—his ninth of the season—stood up for a 1-0 Dallas win, and pushed the Hoops’ record to 11-5-5.

Toronto has acquired seven new players in recent weeks, and started five of them in the match. Frings and his fellow new designated player Danny Koevermans both got the nod, along with Ryan Johnson, Andy Iro, and Guadeloupe international Eddy Viator, who was signed earlier in the day and pressed into action as Richard Eckersley, the regular right back, sat out due to yellow card accumulation.

Koevermans and Frings each forced good saves from Dallas keeper Kevin Hartman in the first half.