For U.S. soccer fans, the scene was tough to watch: Archrival Mexico celebrating a Gold Cup victory on American soil, cheered on by a largely pro-Mexico crowd at the Rose Bowl.
A little more than a month later, Bob Bradley has been fired as coach of the U.S. men's soccer team.
Bradley led the team to big moments during his tenure, including Landon Donovan's heart-stopping goal to secure a place in the round of 16 at last year's World Cup in South Africa and an unforgettable victory over Spain in 2009.
Bradley's Up-and-Down Reign
The U.S. Soccer Federation is widely expected to announce Bob Bradley's successor Friday. Leander Schaerlaeckens examines the list of potential candidates led by Juergen Klinsmann. Story
Although the news of Bob Bradley's sacking comes as a shock, there's little downside to replacing him, writes Jeff Carlisle. Story
But to some, the disappointing Gold Cup loss to a Mexico team that seems to be on the upswing was another sign that the U.S. team's progress has stalled under Bradley.
"We want to thank Bob Bradley for his service and dedication to U.S. Soccer during the past five years," U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said in a statement. "During his time as the head coach of our Men's National Team he led the team to a number of accomplishments, but we felt now was the right time for us to make a change. It is always hard to make these decisions, especially when it involves someone we respect as much as Bob. We wish him the best in his future endeavors."
Now another coach will be given the chance to lead the Americans into another World Cup qualifying cycle, which begins next year. The next World Cup is in Brazil in 2014.
With a Mexico rematch looming, an Aug. 10 exhibition in Philadelphia, U.S. Soccer likely will move quickly to select Bradley's replacement. The federation said it will have a "further announcement" on Friday, but did not provide details.
The United States has long been linked with a move for Juergen Klinsmann, former coach and player for the German national team. Other foreign coaches might be in the mix. But the federation also might consider an up-and-coming Major League Soccer coach, Real Salt Lake's Jason Kreis.
The dismissal comes nearly a year after Bradley was given a contract extension to continue coaching the team through 2014. But even as Bradley was given a new deal, there were concerns that the team had hit its ceiling.
The U.S. made it to the round of 16 in last year's World Cup -- but it needed Donovan's last-minute heroics to make it out of what was seen as a relatively easy group. It then was eliminated by Ghana in a game many thought was winnable.
Bradley's supporters would point out that he has made the most of a group of players who generally can outwork rival teams, but lack the technical skills and finishing touch of the world's elite.
U.S. Soccer is in the middle of overhauling its youth development system, an effort led by former U.S. captain Claudio Reyna. The hope is to grow a new generation of elite players by identifying and nourishing their potential at an earlier age.
Although many current U.S. national team players have proven themselves good enough to join European club teams, too many get stuck on the bench when they make it overseas.
Bradley was chosen as coach in January 2007 and went 43-25-12 overall.
Highlights include the victory over Spain and a near-upset of Brazil in the 2009 Confederations Cup, along with last year's World Cup.
But the U.S. team is having a rough 2011. First came Spain's 4-0 rout of the U.S. in an exhibition, followed by a head-scratching 2-1 loss to Panama early in the Gold Cup.
The U.S. rallied to make it to the Gold Cup championship game, but the 4-2 loss was seen as a setback for the U.S. after the team blew a 2-0 lead.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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