Remember Copa America?
Remember that Copa America tournament a few years back, where Bob Bradley used all of those second tier players? All those sub par players who played in the tournament much to the disdain of many U.S. fans and the tournament host, Venezuela?
Many said: Why waste a good opportunity to play some good best teams in the world with secondary players? The U.S. lost all three games and came home early.
However, looks like Bradley had a plan. A plan that is helping not just the U.S. national team but the MLS as a whole. Bradley is multitasking, as these players are brought into the national team fold they gain experience and confidence - this translates to better play in the MLS and the players new knowledge and confidence is passed down the line to young players in the league. It's a slow process, but in time the results will shine through. Or maybe they already are, look at the team that's set to play in the Gold Cup final.
Guys like Bornstein, Davies, Clark, Guzan, and Beckerman, all played in Copa America, against top tier teams away from home - Argentina, Columbia and Paraguay. Valuable experience that's seems to have paid off for this group, as each one could potentially make the world cup squad. Beckerman is having a wonderful Gold Cup tournament and could be hard to leave out of the team that goes to South Africa.
Bradley has used 85 different players seen he took over for Bruce Arena after the 2006 World Cup. He's given first time international matches to a host of players. He has a core group, but he hasn't been afraid of giving a young player a shot. This has helped create some competition places in the national team. No longer can players assume they'll be called in. And, when the get the chance they know they have to take advantage of it.
As someone said in the BigSoccer.com forum prior to Copa America back in 2007. And while the team didn't win any games, the ground work was laid for the future:
'This roster could instill a little bit more competition for spots on the national team..... if certain people do well, it's going to light a fire under some of the guys butts that think they have a position sewed up..... and I expect for us to be competitive, and for there to be a little bit more competition among the players in the player pool.'
And he has had an interesting run as national team coach. He had the interim moniker at first. He endured some early Copa America backlash when he was just starting out. He won the Gold Cup and got some reassurance that he could stick around as coach. He used a ton of players and caught some more flack. He had some good World Cup qualifying wins and then some bad ones. Then, after two losses in the Confederations Cup against two of the best teams in the world when two players got sent off, many were clamoring for his head. Someone even created a website: www.firebobbradleynow.com.
But, then the whole situation turned on a swivel. He beat Spain and nearly beat Brazil. Now, he's back in the Gold Cup final with a national B team. He's done a lot right, and maybe more than he knows. Does he ask for a raise now?
In truth though, it seems to go both ways, the national team appearances give players a boost of confidence and the competition in the MLS keep players sharp. Without the MLS Bradley wouldn't have so many players to choose from. He'd be trying to get players from overseas American citizenship or he'd have to have another son like Michael.
It looks like the MLS is paying off, not in a financial sense yet but as a feeder for the national team. After 13 years there are some players who have come of age playing in the MLS and are able to contribute to the national team.
Bradley, who's son happens to be one of the best players on the team, can keep giving players a chance.
Someone you don't hear a lot about is Mike Sorber, the assistant coach to Bob Bradley, what's his role?
Extra: Someone you don't hear a lot about is Mike Sorber, the assistant coach to Bob Bradley, what's his role? Sorber played in Mexico just after the World Cup in 1994 and made the Mexican league's All Star team. I'm sure he deserves some credit for the U.S. team's success, too.