Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bob Bradley Fired--Who's Next? And Who Shouldn't Be?

As you may have heard, US Soccer Coach Bob Bradley has been fired.  I've put out my reasons for why I think it happened.  I don't want to toot my own horn, but I found my reasoning to be brilliant and compelling.

There is talk of what and who will follow.  And one of those names is obviously Jurgen Klinsmann.  There's where it will begin and end for many US followers--I think most true-blue US fans know the story--Klinsmann could have had the job, chafed at the level of control that he would have, and the parties went their separate ways.  The US hired Bob Bradley, and Klinsmann napped comfortably on his pile of money.  How did that work out?

So, everyone is probably assuming that Klinsmann is about to tapped, and like, soon (like maybe tomorrow).  But that hasn't stopped folks from putting out suggestions that include other coaches besides Klinsmann.  Which is of course fine and well and to the good.  There are a lot of good coaches out there.

But, if you will indulge me, let me demonstrate one horrible list.  And to be fair, ESPN's Scott French makes it clear that his desired choice would be Guus Hiddink, which is a fantastic choice.  But, in his article, French states, "but U.S. Soccer could do far worse that staying stateside."

Really?  They could?  At the top of the French's list is Bruce Arena; at the bottom, Jurgen Klinsmann.  Klinsmann is just technically "stateside"--sure he lives in the US, but his claim to fame is playing internationally and coaching Germany pretty effectively in 2006.  Arena, I don't think, will ever come back, and I don't think he should.  I loved him, but I think one of the things the US needs to do is stop hiring laterally.  And let's face it--after Arena got canned, he didn't get a shitload of offers to coach other international teams, or a big professional team in Europe.  He's in the MLS.

In fact, the number of MLS coaches listed in these "Who's Next" articles shocks me.  Sigi Schmid?  Dominic Kinnear?  Jason Fucking Kreis?  In that NY Times list, Jack Bell asks, "Is experience playing at the elite level a prerequisite? Should it be?"

To me, that question is meaningless.  The question is--"Have they succeeded in a real coaching challenge?"  And US College Soccer and the MLS do not count.  Jason Kreis was a US Soccer player who never went abroad and succeeded; he never latched onto the US Team.  He's now a coach who hasn't done anything outside of the MLS (a place where Kreis' reasonable talent and ridiculous work rate made him a star).  MLS coaches know work rate and reasonable talent.  They wouldn't know how to develop a star if their lives depended on it.  They've never seen one!  European coaches have.  Here's what Jason Kreis needs to do before anyone considers him a Head Coach of the USA program--go to Europe, and win there.  Coach in the First Division in England, and get that team to the Premiership.  That's coaching.  Winning in the MLS?  C'mon.

And that point may lead into the generational-long rabbit hole of Youth Soccer Development in the US, and how that has hamstrung the National Team.  I don't buy that shit, by the by.  We almost beat Germany eight years ago, and our youth development wasn't any better then.  And Germany was pretty damn good that year, too.  What the US National Team needs is a true head coach--one who is free to pick his players, and to recall players for any match that he sees fit (apparently, that's the kind of principle that Klinsmann turned down the job over) to mold his team into a team and make it solid.

What we absolutely don't need is another lateral move.  Arena was a great US Soccer Coach.  Prior to him, Steve Sampson was a terrible one.  Bradley falls in the middle.  They all have the same damn pedigree.  Great  college coaches (Sampson and Arena met in an NCAA Final), each managing MLS teams.  Each coaching the US in succession. Each succeeding the other.  It is time to break that chain.  It is time for a US Coach who didn't cut his teeth in the NCAA or MLS, or learned everything he knows from Sampson, Arena, or Bradley.  How about a coach who has coached in the UEFA or even Europa Championships?  Or in the Premiership, or Bundesliga, or La Liga?  How about, as crazy as this sounds, a top-flight coach?

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