The long rumored heir apparent to coach the US men’s soccer team finally has been handed the reins, as German Juergen Klinsmann officially was hired for the job shortly after Bob Bradley was sent home.
Bradley somehow managed to survive an extra year as the head man for USA soccer, despite a disappointing 2010 World Cup and despite the many blunders in strategy and lineup decisions he made along the way. The disheartening blown lead and defeat to Mexico in the Gold Cup was the last straw, although it still took another month after that until Bradley received his pink slip.
The delays and the drawn out process highlights part of the problem with USA soccer from the top down – stagnation. The men’s team needed a change, and it should have happened a year ago.
Every World Cup is actually a four year cycle, and there’s much more to do beyond winning qualification games and getting your team and country a spot in the 32-team final bracket.
The stars of the 2014 World Cup don’t just magically appear – they debut on the grand stage after having been developed on U-17 and U-20 squads. Players have to be developed and moved through the system, and new talent has to be scouted, promoted and highlighted in a coordinated process. Overall style of play and philosophical approach to the game has to be laid down, tweaked and improved.
All of this has to happen and more, and it takes four years to get the job done. USA soccer squandered a quarter of their time, leaving themselves even farther behind.
The Bradley era for USA men’s soccer wasn’t a disaster. In over four years at the helm, he sported a 43-25-12 record, including a defeat of World Cup champions-to-be Spain, in the midst of a 35 game winning streak. His tenure will be marked not by failure then, but by disappointments, shortcomings and miscues.
Yes, the USA made it to the Round of 16 in the 2010 World Cup, but a clear path was carved straight to the semifinals if the team was only able to capitalize on it. Yes, the team is spearheaded by some world class talent like Landon Donovan, goalie Tim Howard and Michael Bradley, the ex-coach’s son, but a complete dearth of elite strikers or young stars in the making leaves the team vulnerable both now and in the future. Yes, the squad advanced past the Group Stage in thrilling fashion, but questionable lineup adjustments took out some of the team’s best performers and left them shorthanded for the next match.
Klinsmann enjoyed a good, albeit short lived, run as the German team’s head coach, helping them to a third place finish at the 2006 World Cup. More importantly perhaps is his experience as a player on the 1990 German team that won it all.
He’ll bring a new level of excitement, strategy and development to a team and a system that desperately needs it all. It’s just too bad it didn’t happen a year ago.
This article was first published by Jake Emen on Yahoo Sports on August 1, 2011