Bob Bradley Must Win the 2011 Gold Cup to Stay as Coach of the US National Team
During his nearly five years as manager of the United States national soccer team, Bob Bradley has been an extremely controversial figure.
Controversy has swirled around Bradley for reasons such as making some questionable national team selections, along with certain key players such as Jozy Altidore being unable to score at the World Cup.
Bradley has had some great moments as manager of the national team, such as winning the 2007 Gold Cup, reaching the 2009 Confederations Cup final and finishing first in Group C in the 2010 World Cup, among other things.
But after falling out of the 2010 World Cup to Ghana, Bradley's time as manager appeared to be up when US Soccer president Sunil Gulati ripped Bradley for his job in South Africa, saying, "I think the team's capable of more. I think the players know it. I think Bob knows it. And so at that level we're disappointed we didn't get to play another 90 minutes at least."
However, Bradley was retained as manager with a new four-year contract last August, and American fans continued to question exactly why was Bradley staying.
There were points such as the case of the retainment of former US manager Bruce Arena after he led the US to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals. Arena then led the US out of the World Cup in the 2006 World Cup group stage, leading to his dismissal.
Another interesting point against Bradley staying on as manager was that out of the 48 times that a manager returned to a national team to lead that nation to a World Cup, 25 of them fared worse in their second time around in the World Cup.
There was also a push to get former German coach Jurgen Klinsmann to become the coach after he declined the offer to manage the US in 2006.
However, preliminary talks between the two did not get very far, which allowed Bradley to stay on.
Since Bradley signed his new contract, the US have only won one match (against South Africa last November), drawn four matches and lost once.
In these matches, the US have failed to impress like they did against some similar opponents during Bradley's first term, such as wins over Mexico and at Honduras in World Cup qualifying, the win over Spain in the Confederations Cup and the great performance put up in last year's World Cup.
But in this year's Gold Cup, the United States will be expected to perform like they did in some of the most important matches of the first half of Bradley's regime.
This Gold Cup squad will contain many of the players that the US used in their earlier tournaments under Bradley, along with some young players that have impressed in recent friendlies.
The US will have players such as Tim Howard, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey playing for them throughout the tournament and will certainly look to take back the Gold Cup that Mexico took from them in 2009.
To add even more pressure on Bradley, if the United States fails to win the 2011 Gold Cup, they will not be able to participate in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil.
After the United States was able to stun Spain to reach their first FIFA final in the 2009 Confederations Cup, there was an unprecedented buzz in the US for the national team, which translated into a massive attendance increase in the 2009 Gold Cup.
The success in the Confederations Cup was definitely a massive reason why Bradley was able to keep his position as US coach.
However, with the recent 4-0 thrashing given to them by the Spanish national team, there will be more pressure on Bradley and the US team to win this Gold Cup.
The questions such as the inclusion of Freddy Adu on this year's Gold Cup roster and why Jozy Altidore seems unable to score will certainly cause negative press for US Soccer, something that it can ill-afford.
For US Soccer, this is their best chance until World Cup qualification begins to make a big splash in the American media and can garner more fan interest. But a failure to win the Gold Cup will only hurt US Soccer's development.
That is something that Gulati knows all too well, and he knows that the US must win this Gold Cup.
If the United States fail to win the Gold Cup to secure participation in the Confederations Cup, Bradley will get the pink slip from Gulati, and we could see someone such as Klinsmann take over before World Cup qualification begins.
However, Bradley will probably keep his job if he wins the Gold Cup this year. Going forward, Bradley will only be fired if the United States has a terrible qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup, but that is extremely unlikely.
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