Home > MNT Lineups > [OPIN.] Bob Bradley: Poor Planner or Just Bad Director?

[OPIN.] Bob Bradley: Poor Planner or Just Bad Director?

In an earlier post, I wondered why Bob Bradley had named seven arguable A-teamers to the Gold Cup roster when he (a) knew he would be losing 3-4 starters during the course of the Gold Cup and (b) had no intention of using them in the tournament.  In that post, I argued that Bob Bradley might be one of the worst planners ever.  But perhaps Bob is really just a bad director.  He introduced seven characters early and makes the audience expect they’ll play a role in the film.  But as the movie progresses, the director – by accident or design – abandons the characters.  The more I think about it, the more I suspect Bob Bradley’s got a little Alan Smithee streak in him.

Of course, others have been willing to play Devil’s Advocate.  In a blog post this afternoon, Ives explained that Bob Bradley’s decision to stick with the fellas he came in with is because:

Bradley respects the value of loyalty and trust and calling in a handful of new players to the current group would essentially be saying he doesn’t believe the current U.S. roster can finish the task of winning the United States a third straight Gold Cup.

I call shenanigans.  First, by naming seven A-team players to the roster, Bradley acknowledged that the current squad might not be up to the task of winning the whole thing.  Why would any rational coach name them to the squad if he only planned to use one of them?

Second, he already called in a ringer (Feilhaber) for a group-stage match against Honduras when he already had 3 points and needed only to be one of the top 2 3rd-place teams [every team with at least 4 points advanced].  And nobody in the U.S. camp is suggesting that Feilhaber’s presence hurt the team’s collective ego.

Third, with the full squad’s performance against Costa Rica (a 3-1 loss on June 3, 2009) and this squad’s 2-2 draw with Haiti and 2-1 victory over Panama, even the most ardent supporters of our B- and C-squad guys have reason to doubt their ability to win the whole thing.

Fourth, so what?  These guys are professionals.  They knew coming into the tournament that they had a limited opportunity to prove they could contribute to winning important matches.  If after four matches, Bradley is convinced that bringing in an A-teamer would significantly improve our chances of victory then the current guy(s) missed their chance.  It is like Olympic relays: B-squad runners/swimmers qualify the teams for the final so that the A-squad members are better rested and able to win the gold.  If one really excels, they get to be in the final.  But most had their opportunity already to prove they were A-teamers and couldn’t do it.  We should thank them for their service and wish them better luck next year.

Fifth, bringing the players in does not mean that they have to start.  But they’re available just in case the team falls behind or can’t break a tie (which generally means in single-elimination rounds that the team might not be able to win).  And they add depth to a lineup that needs it.  By calling Parkhurst back, we now have 19 guys (assuming Conrad makes a ridiculous recovery from his concussion and risks his career just to play against Honduras).  Even with both, the team has virtually no depth up top or in the back:  a midfielder is our third forward (Arnaud) and another is our backup right back (Evans).

Sixth, international tournaments are not the time to try and stroke struggling players’ egos.  That is why we play friendlies.  If we want to be considered a legitimate power, we should enter tournaments with the intention of winning them.  If we can advance to the final with a B team, great.  But you owe it to your fans to try and win the final.  And no matter how great the guy, if a player isn’t up to the challenge, then sit him and hope he improves in time for the next tournament.

Now, I understand that winning the Gold Cup isn’t the most important thing in the world right now.  But this is the national team and we are in an international tournament.  And I expect the coach of the national team to make winning a top priority.  (Within reason, of course.)

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