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Bob Bradley: Did Premier League Detour Keep Him from U.S. Job?

December 27th, 2016 · 1 Comment · English Premier League, Football, France, Galaxy, Russia 2018, soccer

Well, that was ugly. And perhaps unfortunately timed.

Bob Bradley, the first American to coach a team in one of Europe’s biggest five leagues, was fired by Swansea City today — only his 85th day on the job of the English Premier League club.

He was a dead man walking since Swansea’s 4-1 home loss to West Ham yesterday, which left the club with only 12 points this season, fewest in the league, and looking a lot like a team headed for the disaster of relegation.

(Bradley also battled the assumptions, in the Premier League, that an American couldn’t really be up to the job, especially when he, inexcusably, said “road game” instead of “away match” and “PKs” instead of “penalties”.)

But … it is hard to argue with the move by the team’s American owners, the ones who brought in Bradley in October, because the atmosphere in Swansea’s home match yesterday has been described by British journalists as “toxic” and “poisonous” and the team appeared to give up.

Bradley will not have many fond memories of his 11 games, only two of which Swansea won, or of the quality of the side, which he changed nearly every week as he looked desperately for a combination that would work — after numerous personnel mistakes by top management.

And now he is out of a job … when he might at this moment be the U.S. national team coach — which he could not aspire to in late November, while at Swansea, when the U.S. Soccer Federation fired Jurgen Klinsmann and replaced him with Bruce Arena.

That job might have gone to Bradley, had he not been trying to make his name in one of the world’s elite leagues.

When Klinsmann went down, after two defeats to open the Hexagonal in 2018 World Cup qualifying, U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati was left with, realistically, only one candidate.


Had Bradley still been at French second-division side Le Havre, he presumably would have entered the conversation for “next U.S. coach”. Making it a two-man race he perhaps would have won.

Bradley, 58, is younger than Arena, 65, and has led U.S. national team more recently. The former was in charge from 2006 into 2011; Arena led the Yanks from 1998 to 2006.

Like Arena, Bradley led the U.S. to the final 16 of a World Cup. Arena went one better, reaching the quarterfinals in 2002, but Arena also oversaw a group-stage exit in Germany 2006 — which got him fired ahead of Bradley being hired to replace him.

Bradley also reached the final of the 2009 Confederations Cup, beating Spain in the process.

After he was fired by Gulati following the 2011 Gold Cup, Bradley reached the final stage of African qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. His Egypt side, in the midst of civil unrest in their country, collapsed in the second half of a match at Ghana and lost 6-1.

Bradley then became the first American to get a job coaching a European top-division side, Stabaek, in Norway, before taking over at Le Havre and missing by a tiebreaker, last spring, gaining promotion to France’s top flight.

Arena spent the whole of that time back in Major League Soccer. First a season-plus with New York Red Bulls then, from 2008, with the LA Galaxy, where he had a fine run — leading the Galaxy to MLS Cup championships in 2010, 2011 and 2014. During that time he also showed dexterity in incorporating veteran foreigners into the Galaxy side, particularly David Beckham and Robbie Keane.

Arena likely will do a fine job with the national team. He knows most of the players from their time in MLS, and he survived the sometimes treacherous Concacaf qualifying twice before. (Though he never started it with zero points after two matches.)

But if things get a little sticky, American soccer fans can be excused for thinking what would have happened if Bradley were available when Gulati went looking for a coach … and if Bradley might have brought to the process a little more energy and a little more up-to-the-minute familiarity with the international game.

I like and respect both coaches, and I spent face time with both of them, during my time covering the national team.

It perhaps is a bit reckless to broach this topic, as Arena tries to get the Yanks organized for the final eight qualifying matches.

But some U.S. fans will be thinking about an alternate history, of Bradley in charge for what remains of the 2018 World Cup campaign.




1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Doug // Dec 28, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    I think Arena will do just fine but he is a short-term solution. It will be interesting to see where Bradley ends up next. Hindsight being 20-20, it seems apparent he should have stayed at Le Havre but turning down the chance to manage a Premier League team was just too tempting. It was obvious Bradley was on his way out when Swansea kept giving up boat loads of goals and one newspaper said the players thought Bradley’s practices were “archaic and repetitive.”

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