Bob Bradley Fired: Where Does the US Men's National Team Go from Here?
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After an up-and-down tenure as manager of the United States Men's National Team, Bob Bradley has been fired with no immediate replacement named.
US Soccer Federation President, Sunil Gulati, delivered the statement on Thursday evening, confirming Bradley's departure as manager.
“We want to thank Bob Bradley for his service and dedication to U.S. Soccer during the past five years,” Gulati said. He stated that Bradley led the team to "a number of accomplishments," but added "we (US Soccer Federation) felt now was the right time for us to make a change."
Since cleaning up Bruce Arena's mess after the 2006 World Cup, it has been difficult to chastise Bradley for his impact on the Men's National Team, as well as the sport's standing in the nation. Aside from winning his first major tournament at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2007, Bradley led a young and inexperienced squad to international fame at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa.
There, the team battled from the brink to even qualify for the knockout stages, needing to score an extra goal in their win against Egypt to qualify as group runners-up ahead of then World Cup Champions, Italy. A semi-final matchup with FIFA's top-ranked Spain loomed in the next round, but Bradley's side had experience with FIFA's best, holding then #1 Argentina to an impressive 0-0 draw at Giants Stadium a year before.
Well, we all know what happened that fateful day. But in case you need refreshing, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey scored to lead the USA to an improbable 2-0 win against a team featuring the likes of Xavi, David Villa, Torres and Iker Casillas.
The story lit up the sporting news world in the United States. No one could have imagined the US could even draw with the giants of Spain, let alone put one past the best keeper in the world. But they did it, and Bob Bradley was at the helm.
Sure, the team lost in the final to Brazil (after sublimely being up 2-0). A win in the final could have almost been a side-story to what went on four days prior. Bob Bradley had delivered the United States to the promised land in its first FIFA and major international tournament final.
With expectations at an all-time high the next summer, Bradley brought what was probably the strongest US National squad ever to the World Cup in South Africa.
Cue the orchestral music, something along the likes of "Verdi: Requiem, Dies Irae," filled with numerous crescendos and decrescendos, powerful timpani and a pumping brass back-line.
The US are the cardiac kids again, needing a Robert Green "howler" and late goals against minnows Slovenia and Algeria to qualify. But they get it done. Even moving on as group winners.
Now cue the lonely and dreary violin solo to finish out the concerto.
How would you rate Bob Bradley's run as US MNT manager?
The team bows out against worthy, but beatable opponents in Ghana. Bradley's decisions are scrutinized the entire tournament, from his decisions regarding the center midfield, to finding a prolific forward pairing where none of his decisions brought goals.
Many called for Bradley's head after that disappointing finish in South Africa, but Gulati stuck with his man.
Troubles followed for the next year, with losses and setbacks in high-profile friendlies and the deflating loss against Mexico in the recent Gold Cup final, meaning the team misses out on the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil.
In the wake of the loss, and a month later, Gulati has made his decision. It is one that the United States must embrace and respect. Bradley was good, sometimes even great. He had a calm head and steely demeanor on the touchline, one that affected the team and lifted them to levels never previously seen. But nevertheless, he was aggravating in his own right, making various tactical decisions that cost the US chances to push the envelope and make a statement on the international level.
So where does the US Men's National Team go from here?
The names are swirling around at the moment: Jurgen Klinsmann, Sigi Schmid, Jason Kreis, etc.
In order to push the team on in the future and create something special, there is no doubt the United States needs someone with big game experience, ready to bring America back to the heights of the summer of 2009. For me, the man it needs lives in California, has head coaching experience on a high level, and knows the US National Team back to front.
Sunil Gulati, the void must be filled by Jurgen Klinsmann. No one else.
At the end of an era, it is a bit sad to see Bradley depart. He accomplished things the US had never accomplished before. But the future is bright for American soccer. Gulati's next major announcement cannot come soon enough.
Klinsmann or bust. Brazil 2014 or international soccer obscurity.
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