Jamie Trecker let loose in a detailed, scathing analysis of the US National Team’s current performance level that he suggests is inadequate, and he laid the blame on US Coach Bob Bradley. “The coaching staff has not prepared the team to compete at the highest level. If the Americans hope to perform well at the World Cup next year, U.S. Soccer needs to make a change.”
As good as Jamie’s note is (and usually are) there are a few ideas worthy of debate.
There are points that are easy to agree with and for which Bradley must be held responsible: the team being vulnerable early in each half (readiness), taking an unusually high amount of red cards (discipline, mental preparedness), and not appearing ready to go from the starting whistle or coming out flat. (motivation?)
There are also some roster issues that do point awkwardly at Coach Bradley like player-management in the Gold Cup … if the purpose was to see “new” players why play Jay Heaps (sorry Jay) and Brian Ching? (both known quantities in one way or another)
But the two bigger issues I have with Mr. Trecker’s analysis are… whether the problem starts with talent or tactics, and what comes next.
On the first question, Jamie himself writes: “Right now, it seems as if we have one truly special player in Donovan, surrounded by hard-working but limited guys.” Presume for a moment we accept that assessment of the US Team’s talent… that makes it difficult to lay the blame all on Coach Bradley. National team coaches are not youth-development coaches. They should organize, motivate, maybe find and certainly prepare talent, but not create it. It’s not clear to me that there a ton of better players available than what we saw at the Confederations Cup.
The bigger issue with the article: if Bradley is released, then what?
I agree with Jamie’s view that we lack a cohesive “style” of play… which is why I don’t really join the camp that says “it is too late to change coaches before the World Cup.” (As it isn’t clear what would be disrupted outside of game-day tactics.) However, I do think it might be too late to do so without a pre-determined backup plan ready to put in place immediately. Change can be good, but uncertainty is almost always bad.
An entire thesis could be written about what would come next for US Soccer and a few likely have been… but here’s a thought. If we want a true “style” — and one of possession-oriented, attacking soccer I’d hope — a simple switch of coaches won’t make much of a dent in our current direction. I’d suggest we need to find someone that has a history of building teams with such a style, guarantee them time to experiment and learn the US system (since I suspect this person is not American) and give them greater-than-normal control over the US Soccer development machine. That greater control means they would have a say in both the development and management of quality players.
Sounds a bit like what almost happened with Jürgen Klinsmann, no? However, I would argue he lacks a track record of building teams/programs with a discernable style.
So, I’m going to sleep at night knowing there is a covert operation underway (that I just made up.) Ivan Gadzidis left MLS for Arsenal’s highest ranks as a US Soccer infiltrator with the goal to bring back Arsene Wenger as US coach, director of player development and soccer direction dictator for a mult-year guaranteed contract.
Why not? It’s a theory . . .
I for one do believe it is too late to switch coaches now. Yes, it would be insane for the USMNT to hire a new coach with no plan set. But even with a plan set, or someone in mind, we need to stick with what we have. Unless some new guy has a magic potion that will automatically allow us to win the World Cup? (if you hear of anything let me know).
As you pointed out, not all of the issues here can be blamed on Bradley. Sure he’s an easy scapegoat, but lets be honest, we don’t have the players we need to succeed at such a high level. We need a plan for the future. If we have a bad showing next year, Bradley is out quicker than Khano Smith in a New York Red Bulls game. Until then, I think we need to sit back and enjoy the (very) bumpy ride.