The Impact of Bob Bradley

I haven’t written anything about Bab Bradley being named the ‘real deal’ coach of the USMNT yet because there wasn’t a whole lot to say. I’m not sure having him dangle for a few friendlies was accomplishing much. He was a good coach before he got hired and I don’t think anyone would say he performed some type of unexpected magic in the friendlies. It was clear US Soccer was searching in vain for a higher profile candidate, but in the end, they settled. I mean no disrespect to Coach Bradley – my point is that is how it appears, even if that’s not what they did.

I knew I wasn’t going to hop up and down and shout from the tree tops if he got hired or fired for someone else. I honestly wasn’t that hyped up over who they chose, but I couldn’t put my finger on why.

Turns out Ives Galarcep was thinking the same thing and put it much better than I would have:

If you’re not in a good club environment then having a good national team coach isn’t going to help you. Can a national team coach help the development of a player? Of course, but the notion that someone like a Gerard Houllier was going to be the US coach and sprinkle some magic dust on American players and turn them into Steven Gerrards and Thierry Henrys is absurd.

The hard truth about the U.S. national team is that there isn’t a coach in this world, alive or dead, who was going to lead the team to a World Cup title in 2010. Some American soccer fans get furious when they hear that but the sooner they realize this the sooner they will accept the fact that just because someone once wrote a report suggesting that the USA could win a World Cup by 2010 doesn’t make the program a failure becuase it isn’t there just yet.

Where’s Tinker Bell when you need her?

In the end, the impact of a coach on the national team’s skill and level of play is not a big as many people think. They are the tactical masters of the matches they play, need to be able to put together the strongest team they can, and contribute in a small way to their development as players. But the players are primarily shaped in their professional careers, and obviously that is built on their development as youth players.

The one thing I do believe the national coach can have a large impact on is the development of our youth players because they will often take a lead in how the USSF directs youth development, which almost everyone has ideas for improving. Without a good sized pool of talented youth players rising up to the national level, we’re going to struggle. There are many loud debates and discussions going on at all levels of youth soccer on how to improve the training of our kids so that those destined to play at the highest levels arrive there with a solid core of skills and training. And don’t kid yourself, the NCAA and MLS need to be a part of that.

Everyone wants to focus on the short term (2010?!?!? Please…) – we need someone with a long term vision. Of course the alternative may be to take youth development away from the head coach and pay a career professional to run it as it is a long term project since, as we know, coaching the men’s national team is usually a short term stint.

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  1. I’m not sure the current model of youth soccer in the US is conducive to eventually creating the kind of strong national team that can make a serious run at the World Cup. The “pay-to-play” model is quite expensive (and with one kid in Classic and one kid getting ready to start Academy, we’re feeling the pinch), and leaves out a lot of potential talent due to costs.

    Our country’s best athletes don’t play soccer – they play football and basketball for the most part. Until we find a way to tap into our growing Latino population, I think we’ll struggle. Right now, soccer in the US seems to be a sport made up of upper middle class white kids. It’s not to say that such kids can’t be great soccer players, but we’re limiting ourselves if that’s our primary talent pool. I know that’s generalizing, but I’ve seen youth soccer on both coasts in the last five years, and that seems to be the face of it.

    Our WNT doesn’t struggle like the MNT does, but that’s a whole ‘nuther subject. 😀

  2. Excellent points. I find myself more and more stating what seems on the outset as really obvious – it’s the coaching. The cost of Classic and Academy are huge and the fees primarily go to the coaches and trainers. One has to wonder – is this model working? Below the paid levels of soccer (Challenge sometimes and Recreation almost always) the coaches are volunteers. I often think if we could provide small bits of resources to a wider population of volunteer coaches, we might help prepare more of our kids as they rise/age up through the ranks. Parent volunteers often yearn to learn the game and be better – but are often left to their own devices. If we worked to try and strengthen the educational process for the coaches teaching our youngest players, I wonder sometimes what the effect would be on the overall player pool as the kids advanced.

    The cost factor is clearly an issue and not easy to solve. But I also wonder if we could do more to strengthen our vast volunteer/parent coaching pool and reap significant dividends.