Reports from England, that Bob Bradley has resigned as U.S. national team coach to take charge of English Premier League side Aston Villa, were quickly denied by U.S. Soccer, which says conversations between the Manhattan Beach-based coach and USSF President Sunil Gulati and Secretary General Dan Flynn could happen next week.
Bradley's tenure as U.S. boss has been uncertain since the Americans' round-of-16 exit from the World Cup on June 26. The consensus, quite reasonable, is that Bradley did an outstanding job in nearly four years in the position, that the U.S. met expectations in South Africa, but that its slow starts to all four games and inability to get past Ghana in the knockout stage were disappointments.
Bradley was the right coach for the past four-year cycle. He redefined for the players what playing for the national team meant and gained for American soccer universal respect, especially during the run to last year's FIFA Confederations Cup final and the semifinal upset of Spain.
Whether he's the right coach for the next four-year cycle, through the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and can take the U.S. team to the next steps in its evolution is something Gulati and Flynn must determine. They might prefer a coach with greater experience at the game's highest levels.
The No. 1 candidate among that group is Juergen Klinsmann. He's one of the finest strikers Germany ever produced (scoring in three World Cups and three European Championships) and starring in four of the world's “major” leagues (Germany, Italy, England, France). He's got top coaching experience (guiding Germany to a surprise third-place showing at the 2006 World Cup, plus an abbreviated stint at Bayern Munich, which resisted his attempts to alter the club's culture).
Klinsmann, who is married to an American and has called Huntington Beach home for years, is knowledgeable about the U.S. and the American game. He served as an adviser to the Galaxy during Sigi Schmid's time as coach -- it was his recommendation that led to the roofs, the stadium's distinguishing feature, over the east and west stands at Home Depot Center.
Bradley's name was floated for the Fulham job when Roy Hodgson departed last month to take charge at Liverpool. He was never in the running, and the post went to Manchester United star Mark Hughes, who had coached his natives Wales' national team as well as Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City.
Bradley, who has made no secret of his desire to coach overseas, was quickly mentioned as a candidate after Martin O'Neill's shock resignation Monday as Aston Villa manager. The primary element to the speculation is that the Birmingham-based club is owned by an American, Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner.
Bradley's name gained traction in England following the Americans' unproductive defeat Tuesday to Brazil -- possibly Bradley's last game as U.S. coach -- and the English press reported Friday it was a done deal. It isn't, and Bradley's appointment would be nearly as stunning as O'Neill's departure, which occurred just five days before Saturday's EPL opener against West Ham United.
More likely, Aston Villa will bring in a coach with club experience in Europe. Bradley's time as head coach of the Chicago Fire, MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) and Chivas USA won't match up, but if he does not continue as U.S. coach, he'll certainly find options elsewhere.