And I blame these two:
Because let’s be honest. If David Villa and Fernando Torres were on their game in the 2009 Confederations Cup semifinals, how impressive would Bob Bradley’s 4-year run be, really?
Yes, there are positives to Bradley’s tenure thus far. He’s encouraged a number of U.S. national team players to build their skills in Europe. He won a Gold Cup in 2007 and was arguably 45 minutes away from beating Brazil in a cup final two years later. He managed to get some tough opposition for his squad to cut its teeth on in 2008. His tactical nous has been hit-or-miss, but when he hits it, boy, it flies out of the park. Just ask those two dudes in red up there.
When he misses, however, it’s a colossal bungle. Yes, the USA won Group C at the World Cup, but it wasn’t that strong a group, really, and it took a stoppage-time goal against Algeria to get us through. And what happened when we got there? Bradley put his faith in Ricardo Clark. It was the sort of decision that made you wonder if Bradley’s only real contribution to the U.S. national team was fertilizing the egg that grew into our best central midfielder. (Good job, Bob! Rex Ryan salutes you!)
Some would argue that this is the right decision for now, and that a guy like Juergen Klinsmann would be better for the job after the 2014 World Cup. Maybe that’s true. By bringing back Bradley for four more years, however, U.S. Soccer risks suffering the same fate in 2014 as it did in 2006 — allowing the atmosphere around the team to get stale, resulting in another early World Cup exit. U.S. Soccer is taking the easy road here, which is just what you would expect from someone like Sunil Gulati, who seems eager to sell us something while making only minimal effort to get us excited about it. Keeping Bradley is not exciting, and it means expectations for 2014 will be muted at best.
If Bradley is to take this team any further in 2014, he might need a Carlos Queiroz-type behind him — not the guy who made the Portuguese side so ineffectual, but the guy who sat behind Sir Alex Ferguson and helped Manchester United win multiple Premier League crowns and a Champions League trophy. Hell, Queiroz might be available to play that role for Bradley soon, and given that his Q-Report was the basis for U.S. Soccer’s Project 2010, he’d be a pretty good guy to have around.
Then again, maybe all Bradley needs is a stronger group of players from which to choose — something that should be the focus regardless of who this team’s manager is. We certainly have a better chance of making that happen in the next four years than we have of beating Spain again.