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Sunil Gulati discusses U.S., Bradley, World Cup bid

Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, addressed a wide variety of topics Monday morning.

On the process of assessing Bob Bradley:

"I have known Bob for a very long time, I have a lot of faith in him and I think the world of him at a personal level. We will make the right decision for the sport; it won't be about the personal level. It's not going to be a snap decision. I want to hear his thoughts about how things went. I have some questions and why we did some things collectively -- decisions that he made along the way. I'm sure he is going to want to hear about some of my reactions."

Approaching potential coaching candidates:

"It's not my plan to talk to people until I have had a chance to sit down with Bob. Bob is our coach. He is the coach through the end of the year. This isn't a question about making a change. We have a four-year contract, the end of the contract is the end of the year. The same was true in Bruce [Arena]'s case except Bruce had an opportunity [in MLS], so we needed to make a decision very quickly. I am not saying we are going to wait six months to make a decision. I would never, ever, ever allow that to happen [laughter, referring to the stalled negotiations with Juergen Klinsmann in late 2006]. I want to sit down with Bob. That is the appropriate thing. I want to hear his views, express some of mine and see what makes sense. I think he has done a very good job, that is very clear."

Much more.....

Considering a high-profile foreign coach for marketing and pr purposes:

"Would we capture some interest and be in the news? Sure. But we capture far more interest by having a good team, and that is the critical element. Would it be nice to have someone who is American, had won a World Cup as a coach and as a player, was charismatic, spoke multiple languages? Yes. I don't know of any such person. We're going to make a decision that is best for the program. The ability to enthuse the American public is part of all that, but the primary way to enthuse the American public is by doing well at this point. That is the number one criteria."

On the World Cup performance:

"Mmixed results and very much mixed emotions, and that is almost within individual games and then reflecting on the tournament. The first goal has to be to get through the first round; we did that ... with two minutes to spare. That is a success, and we helped reestablish the position of the team after the last World Cup. On that front, mission accomplished. Where it is clearly not accomplished is, everyone associated with the program feels it was an opportunity missed -- a game we could have won and probably feel we should have won. It was all in front of us. We started dreaming after the first round. Looking at the brackets and you start thinking about what is possible, and unfortunately we think about what could have been."

Did the team meet his expectations?

"No. I think the team is capable of more. I think the players know it. I think Bob knows it. At that level, we are disappointed we didn't get to play another 90 minutes, at least."

On the missed opportunities off the field:

"It is also a missed opportunity to stay in the American public's eyes for another four, five six days, maybe 10 days, when interest is at an all-time high. I have no doubt there will be people still watching at bars at strange times, the TV ratings will still be good, but what the ratings might have been for a quarterfinal game or dreaming beyond that. We clearly caught something in the last few weeks that we haven't seen before. The job is to try to hold on to some part of that."

Optimism about the 2018/22 World Cup bid:

I am feeling good about things, but not taking anything for granted. I understand the sentiment about 2018 being in Europe and we will do what is in our interests at the right time, and if that means focusing on one or the other, we will do that at the right time. I don't see any reason to do that now. We've talked with the appropriate people at FIFA leadership, and they are comfortable with that as well. ... I don't think we are going to know [whether the USA will win the bid] with any certainty until very late in the game."

Fabio Capello's U.S. interest a few years ago:

"The one time I talked to [Capello] about working in the U.S. was with Bob Bradley sitting at my side [in London]. At that time, he said to me that he was looking forward to a different sort of challenge with less pressure. [laughter] Maybe two months before he took the England job. Bob and I met with him to talk about being involved with our program. Not the national team, looking forward after being at Real Madrid and other places. We were talking about different things, working with youth teams. He is an interesting guy with a lot of interests. It was very exploratory."

*Gulati said the USA has no plans to participate in the 2011 Copa America in Argentina.

*Besides the friendly against Brazil on Aug. 10, the Americans will play at least one friendly this fall.

By Steve Goff  |  June 28, 2010; 8:12 AM ET
Categories:  2010 World Cup , U.S. men's national team , USSF  | Tags: Bob Bradley, Juergen Klinsmann, Sunil Gulati, U.S. soccer, World Cup  
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Next: Slovakia vs. Netherlands in World Cup round of 16

Comments

They fired Arena, which was a huge mistake. They MUST fire this guy.

Posted by: kemp13 | June 28, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

not good to not play in Copa America. As you can see the South American teams are good teams to play against. South America deserves another automatic spot in the WC. 5 teams in all advanced. US needs to stop playing European minnows.

Posted by: Mig18 | June 28, 2010 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Kemp13: How was firing Arena a mistake? We finished last in the group in '06.

I think Bob Bradley did a very good job but I think it is time to bring in new people who have fresh ideas.

Mig18... before this World Cup South American teams did terrible. Only Argentina and Brazil coud get out of group play. Playing in the Copa America is too much stress on an already small talent pool. What is important is winning next summers Gold Cup so we will be back in the Confederations Cup in 2013.

Posted by: grubbsbl | June 28, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Maybe there's a Gold Cup in 2011 -- there seems to be one every year, except WC years.

Posted by: Reignking | June 28, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Reignking. The Gold Cup is every two years, which I think this is too often. We should be like the major regions and only have our regional tournament every four years. It probably doesn’t help that our region has many minnows, and the regular occurrence of the Gold Cup probably is necessary to keep those teams functional. In my opinion the 2011 Gold Cup is the only one that matters because it secures a spot in the Confederations Cup. That is why we saw players like Logan Pause and Davy Arnaud getting caps.

Posted by: grubbsbl | June 28, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

There is a Gold Cup in 2011 which should have a berth to Confederations Cup 2013 in Brazil. Similar situation to Gold Cup/Copa America in 2007 where we sent a pretty weak side down there, much to CONMEBOL's anger.

Posted by: giardinie | June 28, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

I'm still too ticked off to make a reasonable comment so I'd better sit this one out.

Posted by: yankiboy | June 28, 2010 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Just saw the Philly stadium pics -- awesome. Reminds me of Lisboa...which is tough to do, since the area is nothing like it.

Posted by: Reignking | June 28, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Time for a change. If they could land Klinsi now they should give it a try. His comments on US Soccer yesterday morning on the ESPN telecast were spot on.

Posted by: fedssocr | June 28, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

On the plus side, Bob ran a very cohesive team and I think he chose the right players to take to the WC.

On the minus side, I don't think he got the most out of some of his top players, particularly LD and JA; some of his starting lineup decisions were strange; and he consistently didn't have the team ready to play in the first half of games. Result: the team barely advanced out of a weak group and lost in the round of 16 to a team which is hardly considered an international powerhouse.

The negatives clearly outweigh the positives, so I can't see how Bob stays. It's time to get a coach of international stature.

Posted by: shovetheplanet | June 28, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

The Philly stadium looks great. Would have liked steeper rows, but then again .... they have a stadium, we don't. And kudos to Fred: nice goal.

Posted by: nairbsod | June 28, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

You mean "Carreiro" -- that's who scored for Philly on MLsoccersoccer. I had to click on the name to figure out who this new player was.

Posted by: Reignking | June 28, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Bob Bradley did a great job building a team with the available talent. He used determination and strength to credibly match up to talent-filled teams.

That said though, Bradley's lineup decisions for the Ghana game were responsible for the loss. Every person I watched the game with was appalled at his lineup choice before the game. Clark and Findley not making it past the half mark confirmed this. I think Gulati will pin this loss on Bradey. We could have gone further.

Posted by: marcool | June 28, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

The USA team needs a South American coach, preferably an Argentine or Brazilian one. Look at Chile and Paraguay performance in this World Cup. Even look at Saudi Arabia performance in 1994 USA World Cup (its coach was Solari, an Argentinian).

Posted by: Joseph13 | June 28, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

My $0.02 on coaching and the state of U.S. soccer ...

I agree with much of what's been said about Bob Bradley's tactics, player selection, and ability to organize and lead the team. There are clearly pluses and minuses with him, and to be honest I'm still on the fence about whether I'd favor his retention as coach.

However, at this point in our country's soccer development, I believe that the selection of our MNT coach is less important than what happens at the youth level. Our squad continues to make strides competitively, but we'll never reach the top echelon of soccer nations until we can develop (for example) goal-scorers at the same rate and of the same caliber as our American goalkeepers. Granted, Charlie Davies was injured, but it's tough to advance in a World Cup with only one (semi) threatening striker on the entire squad. No goals from our forwards in World Cup 2010 should be a wake-up call: the quality just isn't there yet.

The transition from the pay-to-play youth travel team model to something akin to the Ajax academy system -- already underway in this country -- will pay tremendous dividends for the U.S. player pool in future tournaments. But there's clearly much more work to be done.

I agree with those who questioned Bob Bradley's decision to start Robbie Findley against Ghana. But U.S. Soccer's focus should be on ensuring that Bradley's successors won't have to choose between a Robbie Findley, a Herculez Gomez, and an Edson Buddle, none of whom are really up to snuff at the international level. A quick look at Mexico's crop of lethal young strikers should be a wake-up call for U.S. Soccer. That is what we should be aiming for.

To bring this back around to the original post, if all this means not spending millions on a high-profile foreign coach for this next WC cycle, then I think I'm on board with that.

Posted by: Xill | June 28, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I agree with shovetheplanet's statements on the positives and the negatives. Bob Bradley has been a good coach, but it's time to find a new one.

Posted by: hungrypug | June 28, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

marcool: you know that Bradley coached more than one match, right? He shouldn't be judged on one match.

All MLS teams should have directives to develop some wingers for us in 4 years! Just as kids were told to be catchers so that it would be easier to play in MLB, parents should be instructing their kids to watch and emulate Maicon.

Posted by: Reignking | June 28, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Spot on, Xill. There's an article on Zonal Marking that said "Bob Bradley has shown that he’s very good at identifying problems on the pitch and finding a solution with a change in tactics and/or personnel midway through games, but he doesn’t seem to learn lessons from game to game."

I think that's undoubtedly true, but I think what you said about having to decide between a Robbie Findley and Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez is the real problem, not his actual decision-making. Bob is doing what he can with what he's got...am I disappointed? Yeah. But I also have reasonable expectations, and while the pool is growing, we're clearly somewhere in that second or third tier of having a talented group of players.

So yes, I'd spend all the money in the world on building from the ground up - perhaps Klinsi, based on his comments on ESPN yesterday, could be the guy to do that AND coach the team. But I'd much rather have a Bob Bradley or Sigi Schmidt in 2014 if it meant we can keep pounding away and getting better as we head towards 2018 and 2022.

Posted by: ZidVicious | June 28, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I think Bob's performance merits a two year extension (thru the 2011 Gold Cup), if he wants it. His body of work over the past 4 years was too strong to let 1 game wipe it all away (though it was the most important game). the problems we have are with talent and depth, not coaching. If there isn't a coach out there who could walk in the door and automatically make this team any better, why blow up the chemistry that Bob has created?

Posted by: VTUnited | June 28, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

@ Reignking, did you only watch a game on DVR if you knew that we won? We were almost Always in trouble in some way or another, which was understandable in the run up to the Gold Cup Final (first one). But after that, Bradley stopped truly developing. After that, it was grind, grind, grind. And yes, we won against Spain, but the so called tactics we used against them were the exact same ones we used against Guatamala, for christ sake. We are afraid to attack teams from the get-go, and they score first. Sound familiar? And don't get me started on player selections.

Sunil is a bean counter, and really is not the type of man who you want making these decisions. Klinsmann was the right and willing choice the first time around, we should be begging him now. We need someone who doesn't think the way we do things isn't peachy, Bruce knew, and he vastly overachieved. I cannot even fathom the type of stagnation that would bring in a second cycle. We'd see Clark. It's time to choose Sunil's alter ego, now.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | June 28, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I'd say I've watched 90% of our matches.

I think people are focusing too much on one match and not looking at the big picture.

Posted by: Reignking | June 28, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Why is Gulati even making a decision about not playing in Copa America when he is unsure whether BB will stay? Shouldn't the next coach decide whether to pursue Copa America and not an administrator?

Posted by: Charisma_Man | June 28, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I think Bob Bradley maxed the most he could get out of the players that went over. Jose is not the answer up front. He has carisma with no one. We need to find a front and back line and then we will be in business.

Posted by: VirginiaFan | June 28, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Why is Gulati even making a decision about not playing in Copa America when he is unsure whether BB will stay? Shouldn't the next coach decide whether to pursue Copa America and not an administrator?

Posted by: Charisma_Man | June 28, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse
__________________________________________________________


And that.....is the problem.......... right there.

Too much mingling from the higher ups, not letting coaches have freedom. Thats why Klinsi' didnt coach us. We need to let coaches... coach!!! I think bob bradley did great, although wtih a different coach we may even have a better lead up and explosion on the world stage! Better then we have this WC!

I'd LOOOOOVE to have Bielsa coach us, and to get the most out of our team, with our physical ability to run, and track back. His system of 4-3-3 over the years has always played dangerous and exciting. I would love to see what he could do with us and his formation, and 'crazy' coaching, aka out of the box thinking. Watching Chile play with their pressure on Spain was amazing, right before that red card, they had the momentum, and were shutting down spains passing ways, and making them look bad. I'd like us to do this but at a higher level given how we probably have better athletes compared to chile.

Posted by: BolivianDCFan | June 28, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Can we just hire a second coach?

We just need someone who can remind our guys that they actually have to play during the first 20 minutes of a match.

I agree 100% with Xill. You can blame Bradley or Arena or Capello or whoever you put in as coach but the bottom line is we need to keep our focus on youth development and keep increasing our standards and expectations.

It would help if we had a more structured youth system in which academies, ODP, college soccer, the MLS youth system and all the other leagues and teams our kids can play on made some sort of sense.

Why not bring in someone from Germany or Holland to help develop a more structured youth system in the US?

Posted by: Southeasterner | June 28, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

How about luring Guus Hiddink away from Turkey? He is a proven coach (South Korea final 4 2002 - revered by South Koreans) who speaks perfect English with an American girlfriend. I think he would be a terrific coach.

Posted by: infrequentposter | June 28, 2010 11:09 PM | Report abuse

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