Bruce Arena has already been rehired as USMNT manager. His historic record and impact of getting to the 2002 World Cup Quarter Finals made him the perfect pragmatic solution to a chaotic 0-2 start to US soccer’s battle in the Hex. Bruce has said his last 10 years of professional coaching along with his first experience coaching the national team are going to allow him to be even more successful in this run. I think there’s an even more valuable puzzle piece that could revolutionize US soccer and that’s from another ex-coach.
Across the pond Bob Bradley has become the first US coach to be hired in the English Premier League (EPL). He heads up Swansea City who have struggled mightily this season. However, in the last two games he’s achieved 4 points which puts the team a win or two away from climbing out of the relegation zone. If Bradley is able to keep Swansea in the EPL, it could transform US soccer. Swansea City is under the same ownership as DC United in the MLS and led by American owners. Bradley also has extensive relationships with many MLS coaches there and other leagues as well from his past experiences in Europe. If Swansea City were able to stay mid-table in the EPL and funnel team USA players into the league either through signing them or loaning them in the MLS off season it could offer extended playing time and chemistry to develop for long-term gain.
Let’s take a look at the last two world cup winning teams: Germany and Spain. The 2010 Spain team had 7 players that played together at Barcelona on that team and the 2012 German champions also had 7 players who played full-time together at Bayern Munich. 7 players on the team playing together and developing chemistry year round for four complete years, not just a couple of weeks at camp. The only other teams to have brought 7 club players to World Cup play were Uruguay in 1966 where it took a controversial two red card send off to lose in the semi-finals to then West Germany and the 1990 Egypt team who failed at the group stage by 1 point, but thanks to the 7 club players were able to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1934. Having players that play on the same club year round, especially it today’s competitive environment has had a tremendous impact on the World Cup.
Bob Bradley may prove to be the key to getting our top talent together on one team in the best league in the world. Bradley has already brought over DC United goalkeeper Bill Hamid for training and is in discussions to try to sign DC United and USMNT back-up center-back Steve Birnbaum in the January window. He has denied interest in bringing his son Michael Bradley over, but I think that conversation could change after the MLS Championship on December 10. Michael’s team Toronto FC are in the finals for the first time and I’m sure Bob doesn’t want to be a distraction for him. What if he could add those three USMNT players to his roster and have them playing together for the next two years?
Could Coach Bradley take it a few steps further adding DeAndre Yedlin from Newcastle, Geoff Cameron from Stoke City and Eric Lichaj from Fulham? All players already playing in England for mid-table or English Championship teams. Perry Kitchen is in Scotland not too far away. How difficult would it be to get John Brooks, Timmy Chandler or a few other defenders and have a USMNT back line playing together year round. Perhaps even looking into Cameron Carter-Vicks, Lynden Gooch, Brooks Lennon, Weston McKinnie, and Gedion Zelalem for a loan and a place to fight for a starting spot. It wouldn’t be a stretch for MLS regulars like Jozy Altidore, Jordan Morris, Sasha Klijstsan and other young players to come over on loan as Landon Donovan had done in the MLS off season for more players to get club playing time together. I think star players like Fabian Johnson and Christian Pulisic would be more difficult to bring in, but most if not all of the rest of the squad is probably attainable and affordable.
Bob Bradley is uniquely positioned to have a tremendous impact perhaps even more than Bruce Arena himself on the USMNT’s future and his son’s likely final World Cup run. Bruce Arena would do well to visit Coach Bradley while he’s overseas meeting with players and further develop what this strategy could look like.