After months of speculation, and a summer of luck results, Monday finally brought the confirmation that Bob Bradley won't be jetting across the pond to Villa Park and will remain USMNT Head Coach through the 2014 World Cup.
Don't get me wrong, Bradley has produced some unexpected and fantastic results. The Confederations Cup immediately springs to mind, as well as (albeit by a mathematical miracle) topping the World Cup group. But it was another bitter exit in the Round of 16 in a game that the US boys could have won. At the end of the day, in all honesty, it just isn't enough anymore.
American soccer is at a crossroads more significant than any other time in its history. The 2010 World Cup proved that more Americans than anyone really thought are ready and willing to embrace the sport. Maybe not to the die hard fashion some of us go with our burning passion for teams from cities we've never set foot in. Maybe not even to sit down on a weekly basis and watch a full 90 minutes of their local MLS team. But when it comes to the USMNT, it's America...**** YEA.
America, however, loves a winner. Just pull up some video of men with tears in their eyes when Landon Donovan knocked in that stoppage time winner if you need proof that there is a passion for the national team bubbling below the surface that is ready to explode. But for it to reach a true boiling point, the USMNT and the USSF needs to progress.
That is exactly what they've committed to not doing by signing Bradley on for four more years.
There comes a time when a coach has taken a team as far as he can take it. It happened with Cruyff at Barcelona, and more recently Rafa Benitez at Liverpool. All produced results, but all started to decline and moved on. Just getting out of the group is no longer acceptable for The Yanks. The players want more and the fans, outlaws and casuals alike, demand more. But the USSF seems stuck in its ways and more than willing to stick with more of the same.
We saw how well the worked out with Bruce Arena.
It's at this critical time that the entire system needs a shake up, from the ground up. It's well documented the youth system in America has it all backwards (I recommend seeking out a great article on NYTimes.com called “How a Soccer Star Is Made”). The places for those changes to start trickling down are at the top, it's in the USMNTs head coaches hands, or at least it should be.
Bob Bradley has been blasted for some of his team selections, and sometimes stubbornness to stick with players who fail to produce. But these players still continue to be selected. Also, in the head coaches hands.
It all starts to get even crazier when you realize that a ready made replacement, Germany’s 2006 World Cup coaching hero; Jurgen Klinsmann, is sitting on our coast seemingly ready to step in. If only he should have what he should have, more control over the system.
Klinsmann has his critics, and even I admittedly cringed when he name was in the hat to take over my beloved Liverpool FC, but the time is right, and he is the right man to lead The Yanks towards 2014 and beyond. The influence Klinsmann would bring from the Germany setup on the current structure would be invaluable, not just for the short-term, but for the long term growth of the team and the sport in America. Granted no man can turn an 18th ranked side into World Cup winners in four years. But one man can be the catalyst to get the car rolling in the right direction, uphill, instead of idling on the slope.
Sunil Gulati and Bob Bradley have both made big mistakes in choosing to continue on together. I fear what the next four years are going to bring, and what will happen at Brazil 2014 should we get drawn into an even remotely tougher group than 2010.
The USSF NEEDS change, its NEEDS a shakeup, it NEEDS to realize that the time is right to become serious contenders and more of the same will produce more of the same results.
The last time the U.S.A. gave someone four more years...it was George W. Bush.