Interview: U.S. Men's National Soccer Team Coach Bob Bradley
By Ben Schuman Stoler in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 10, 2010 6:30PM
USAMNT coach Bob Bradley stopped by the Toyota Park press box on Wednesday night to talk to the various media outlets assembled therein. We asked him about the next four years, about the October 9th friendly against Poland at Soldier Field, about the US's World Cup 2018/2022 bid, about Brian McBride, and much more:
What are you hoping to get out of the October 9th match?
When you start a cycle I think one of the first things you do is start the process of bringing some different players in. So I think all that will start and again, it’s a balancing act. It’s not about bringing in a whole team of new players in. Little by little guys that we’ve seen that we think are doing well that now - we start to envision having the potential to help us in this next stretch, in this next four years. And I think always when we come to Chicago we’re excited, the opportunity to play Poland here - I think everyone feels great about that.
Is Soldier Field a good place to play with such a strong polish presence in Chicago?
I think on a day like that it’s a good day for soccer. I would expect that it’ll be a good crowd for Poland and a good crowd for the United States. Soldier Field is still, for us, a special place to play so I would expect it’s going to be a great atmosphere.
How do you make you selection in this cycle knowing that it comes at the end of the MLS season and knowing that there are more players available for selection?
Around the world there are challenges between club and country and we all know that but I think the fact that I have coached in MLS and know most of the coaches quite well - the dialogue is always positive. We will certainly take into account the playoffs and the schedules and balance that with the hope that we can start to work some players in. Most of the coaches in MLS, as difficult as it is to find that balance, appreciate when their players get opportunities to play for the national team and I think when you look at it we understand in certain moments when a lot is at stake that we need to understand that side of things and I think that pays off a lot ultimately in other moments when we call players in. All of it leads to the end when it’s qualifiers and then obviously on a fixture date you call your best guys in. but certainly along the way we try to find a good balance and respect everything that’s going on in the league.
Changes in the national team? A lot of new faces?
I think it’s a gradual process but certainly you can look at a core of players that I thought were right in the middle of our team in this World Cup and believe that they’ll still be there over the next four years. We identified players that we thought needed to take bigger roles and I think in many cases guys like Timmy Howard, Landon [Donovan], Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, Stevie Cherundol, Oguchi Onyewu - guys that became leaders, guys that took more responsibility. I think we also felt like a lot of the younger players that we thought with time would help us grew and played significant roles. You’re always trying to find a good balance, making sure that we have that solid group of leaders and looking for the players that now deserve opportunities to be moved into the program.
Who are some of the up and comers that you’ll be looking at in the next cycle?
In the last game against Brazil Omar Gonzalez got his first cap - there’s a young defender that we think over time can continue to grow and play an important role. I think the game against Brazil shows that there’s certainly a difference between playing against a team like Brazil and playing in the league. You look around the league - another good example is Tim Ream. As a staff, we’re on top of all the games. Whether it’s in person or on TV or back on DVDs, we’re constantly looking for players that we think are ready to get a chance with the national team.
What do you expect out of the polish team, a team that you easily beat in Krakow and a team that’s going through a rebuilding process right now?
Well, Fran Smuda I know. I met him a few times years ago - he played in the United States. Fran’s track record is quite good - his way of organizing teams is excellent, and now they have a target with the fact that they’re hosting [Euro 2012] with Ukraine. It’s a little different because they don’t have to qualify but they have the opportunity to use the friendlies to build their team and make a good showing when the time comes.
You were in Washington earlier today, part of the group welcoming the FIFA delegation. Breakfast at the white house? Were you a part of that?
Yes! I was actually. It was very nice. The bid committee has done a great job in terms of just being organized, getting this group of delegates from one spot to the next, making sure they see everything and the support of the US government to be behind it all the way. The delegates are on a 9 week mission where they go to all the potential places but certainly people that have been involved - David Downs [Executive Director of the USA Bid Committee] and his group - have done a great job.
What’s the biggest hurdle for the US to get a World Cup?
I think quite frankly that people know the type of job that the US can do in running a World Cup. 1994 went really well and we’ve made so much progress since then. I think one of the big points that gets made over and over and over is that the first time around was really the start of many things - including the league [MLS] - and the opportunity years later to come back when the game has grown in so many ways, certainly at a time when the passion in the country for the national league and for the game itself is at a real high - I think that in all ways it just is exciting to think that this process is beginning and we’re a serious contender.
How different is MLS now than when you were coaching?
I think the league has grown in so many ways. You come here [Toyota Park] and as much as obviously I have really fond memories of everything at Soldier Field - the bottom line is that these new stadiums in the league have really meant a lot to MLS and show how far the game has come. The way the different ownership groups have pushed hard to build stadiums, I think that’s been a real plus, and we continue to see more and more young Americans getting their start in professional soccer in MLS. When you look at the number of players that have played this summer in South Africa for our national team, so many of them began their careers here or still play here, so I think in those ways the work of the league and the people that have been here at all levels have directly impacted the success of the national team.
Would you consider a ceremonial cap for Brian McBride for the Poland game?
First off, Brian has been such an important player for the US. A player whose competitiveness and his attitude on the field, his will to win, I think has set a great standard and a guy over the years I would say his teammates have always looked up to him. Coaches that have had a chance to work with him - and I would put myself in this category - wish all players had that mentality. I think he’s been a great example and his career has been special. I think it’s great that he’s been able to finish his career here in Chicago and would wish Brian and his family nothing but the best.
But I need more time to think on it. We’ve had discussions along the way and Brian has, to show you what kind of guy he is, even when we’ve had discussions after he announced his international retirement, his respect for our team and for the other players is so high that he is not typically someone who is interested in those kinds of things. He’s always made decisions based upon a respect of what it means to play for your national team.