Bob Bradley has recently expressed interest in becoming the manager of Aston Villa, but why would owner Randy Lerner be interested in hiring him?
Throughout his career, Bradley has taken over traditionally underachieving teams and put them on track to be successful. But is this the type of manager a storied team like Villa is looking for?
In 1998, Bradley began his first head managerial position of a professional team coaching the MLS Chicago Fire. In his first season he led the expansion team to a double, winning both the MLS and US Open Cups.
Bradley nearly repeated this feat in 2000, when the Fire won another US Open Cup and were runner ups in the MLS Cup. Bradley's best finish in the CONCACAF Champions League with the Fire was third place. Bradley's resigned in 2002 after compiling 82 wins, 54 losses, and 15 ties in the regular season.
New York Metrostars
In 2003, Bradley took over the then New York Metrostars and led the team to the US Open Cup final in his first season. The following season, his last full one with the team, the Metrostars reached the Round of 16 in the MLS Cup. He was fired with three games remaining in the 2005 campaign, having failed to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League all three seasons.
Bradley took over a Chivas USA team entering its second year of existence in 2006. Chivas finished with a record of 4-22-6 the previous season, with a -36 goal differential. In his lone season with the club, Bradley led them to the quarterfinals of the MLS Cup. He finished with a regular season record of 10-9-13.
True to his past form, Bradley led a Team USA that had underachieved at the 2006 FIFA World Cup to a 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship in his first season. That same summer he led a depleted Team USA to three losses and no points at the Copa America tournament.
In 2009, the Americans finished second at the FIFA Confederations Cup. The tournament included a historic upset of No. 1-ranked Spain. Team USA went up 2-0 early in the first half of the final, before Brazil scored three consecutive goals to seal the victory.
After being dominate in World Cup qualifying, Team USA came out flat in nearly every game of the tournament. They surrendered goals before the 15-minute mark in three of their four games. The hallmark of the team became their determination to fight back after falling behind early. Bradley was hailed throughout as a master motivator. In the end, the tendency to not be focused early cost them in the Round of 16. Ghana scored just five minutes into the game, and then just three minutes into the overtime period.
The Villains have been playing top-flight football for 100 years. They have never been relegated and have the fifth best all-time record in the Premier League. While they currently sit near the bottom of the table and have been eliminated from the Europa League, this is not a traditionally underachieving squad.
They have finished sixth in the league each of the last three seasons. Sixth is the best finish that can be expected for this team, as they cannot hope to keep up with the spending of the Big Four and now Manchester City.
Bob Bradley has never inherited a position where he had quality pieces already in place, along with a tradition of winning. Villa has an excellent roster with players like Steve Sidwell, Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Stewart Downing, and new acquisition Stephen Ireland. Would Bradley consistently win or would he crumble under the new pressure?
Aston Villa is not looking for a rebuilder like the role Bradley generally fills, but instead someone to build upon Martin O'Neill's success. At Villa he would face the most intense pressure he has ever felt to win and patience is not a characteristic that Premier League owners traditionally have much of.
He will have to have the team more focused than Team USA in the World Cup, or Villa will suffer a similar fate as the Americans. All of this is not to say that Bradley would not be successfully with the Villains, but it would be a role he has not filled before.