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.

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Brian Ching Busts Out: Hat-Trick, Bicycle Kick, Player of the Week Award

The year 2010 has not been kind to Houston Dynamo striker Brian Ching.

The 32-year-old was a surprise last-minute cut from the U.S. World Cup team in June, and he has struggled with both injuries and a failure to find the net this season in Major League Soccer.

That all changed in a big way on Saturday night as Ching doubled his season goal-scoring output with three goals—including a spectacular bicycle kick, and the 85th minute game-winner—in a 4-3 home win over Chicago.

Here is the bicycle kick that put Houston up 3-1:

Chicago battled back to tie it 3-3, but Ching headed home the winner five minutes from time to give Houston its first MLS victory since May 22 and keep the Dynamo’s slim playoff hopes alive. He was named MLS Player of the Week today.

Findley Scores, Ching Plays, in U.S. Camp Sendoff for Both

Robbie Findley scored his first goal of the 2010 season, and Brian Ching played in his first game since injuring his hamstring on April 1, as the former’s Real Salt Lake downed the latter’s Dynamo 3-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium last night.

Both players will join the U.S. national team camp in Princeton, N.J., starting tomorrow.

But the star of the game was RSL’s Costa Rican striker Alvaro Saborio, who scored in the 24th and 60th minutes to bring his season total to four goals in eight matches for RSL.

The defending champs are hitting their stride, winning three straight after a 1-3-1 start, and playing fluid attacking soccer—especially in the first half hour of this game, which ended RSL’s eight-game winless streak against the Dynamo.

Findley, though, despite snapping in a header off a nice chip from Kyle Beckerman in the third minute, just does not look like a World Cup-caliber striker to us. He’s fast, yes, but his touch was clunky last night and he missed at least two chances he should have buried.

Ching came on in the 62nd minute and looked good, working hard, holding the ball and combining well with teammates. He may not be Brian McBride-in-his-prime, but he’s the best target forward in the U.S. pool.

Click here for highlights.

Goodson Called In to U.S. Camp; Ching Assesses His World Cup Chances

Rangy defender Clarence Goodson will depart preseason training in Spain with his Norwegian club IK Start and fly to Carson, Calif., to join the 22 other players currently in camp with U.S. coach Bob Bradley. The players are training in advance of next Wednesday’s friendly with El Salvador (7:00 p.m. EST, ESPN Classic, TeleFutura).

Goodson replaces defender Kevin Alston, who suffered a strained hamstring in training with the New England Revolution and was unable to make the start of camp on Feb 10. The goal-scorer in the U.S.’s 3-1 loss to Honduras last month, Goodson will be the only foreign-based player in camp.

Here is the full roster, by position:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Troy Perkins (D.C. United), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Zach Thornton (Chivas USA) 


DEFENDERS (7): Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Michael Orozco (Philadelphia Union), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Chris Pontius (D.C. United), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)

FORWARDS (4): Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Jeff Cunningham (FC Dallas), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake)

In other national-team developments, Brian Ching gave an interview to U.S. Soccer in which he discusses his experience with the team (it’s easy to forget Ching has 43 caps), a bout of burnout last year, and his chances to make Bradley’s 23-man roster for South Africa. Give it a read here.