Manhattan Beach's Bob Bradley will get another four-year cycle in charge of the U.S. men's national team, U.S. Soccer announced Monday, after guiding the Americans to the knockout stage of this summer's World Cup.
The extension of his contract through 2014 doesn't come as a surprise, although word that U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati met last week with Huntington Beach's Juergen Klinsmann, a German legend who led his native land to third place at the 2006 World Cup, spurred speculation that Bradley, 52, would not return.
Bradley took the job, first on an interim basis, after U.S. Soccer and Klinsmann were unable to reach an agreement on a contract following Bruce Arena's ouster as U.S. coach following the 2006 World Cup. Arena, now the Galaxy's head coach, is the only man to take the U.S. team to two World Cups, leading it to the quarterfinals in 2002 and a first-round exit four years later.
Bradley has done a superb job as U.S. coach, and not just on the field, where he's compiled a 38-20-8 record and guided his team to an upset of Spain en route to the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup final and to the top spot in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
His finest work was building a culture within the team that demanded accountability from the players, bred uncommon chemistry and defined for all involved the importance of the team.
International respect for the U.S. team swelled under Bradley, who will be able to continue is work on a number of fronts in the next four years.
His tenure came into question after the U.S. missed an opportunity to reach the quarterfinals at the World Cup, falling in overtime in the round of 16 to Ghana. Poor starts to all four World Cup games reflected negatively on Bradley; an inability to find or develop a forward who can score goals regularly and the lack of depth on a leaky backline are fundamental problems that should not be blamed on Bradley.
Bradley, who won an MLS Cup title with the Chicago Fire in 1998 and took the U.S. job after leading Chivas USA to its first postseason berth, also won the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, but the Americans -- with a second-tier side -- were embarrassed, 5-0, by Mexico in the 2009 final.
Bradley had expressed interest in the open position at Aston Villa, the English Premier League team owned by Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner, and was mentioned for the job at London-based Fulham that went to Welshman Mark Hughes last month.
Those who favored Klinsmann or another coach -- Seattle Sounders boss Sigi Schmid (Torrance/Bishop Montgomery HS) is among the American coaches most likely to follow Bradley -- believe that a fresh approach would benefit the U.S. program, that someone other than Bradley would be needed to climb the next steps.
An experienced foreign coach might be the best thing for the U.S., but Klinsmann's managerial experience is slight. His work with the German team was exemplary, but his progressive theories, greatly influenced by his many years in America, bristled the old guard at Bayern Munich, and his tenure there lasted less than a year.
The best option as U.S. coach, in my opinion, would be Dutchman Guus Hiddink, who took South Korea to the 2002 semifinals and unfancied Australia into the round of 16 in 2006. He's was Holland's coach at the 1998 World Cup and has ample club experience at, among others, Chelsea in London, PSV Eindhoven in Holland, Turkey's Fenerbahce, and Valencia and Real Madrid in Spain.
Hiddink, 63, a midfielder for two seasons in the North American Soccer League with the Washington Diplomats and San Jose Earthquakes, was in charge of Russia when it lost to Slovenia in a playoff for a berth in the 2010 World Cup. He would have cost a lot of money, and Gulati would have had to strike much earlier. He agreed in February to take charge of Turkey's national team, and his contract began Aug. 1.