After months of speculation, it’s now official: Bob Bradley has been hired as the first-ever manager of the MLS expansion side LAFC.
When looking at the historic scope of American soccer managers, Bradley’s career stands alone in a number of ways. The 59-year-old began his coaching career with Princeton. He then ultimately wound up plying his trade in MLS — first with D.C. United as an assistant, and then with the likes of the Chicago Fire, the MetroStars, and Chivas USA. Bradley then advanced further with his time as the manager of the United States Men’s National Team. He guided the group to a 43-25-12 record over a six-year period — which included a 2007 Gold Cup Championship, a second-place finish in the prestigious 2009 Confederations Cup, and an appearance in the knockout stages of the 2010 World Cup.
Perhaps most impressively is what ensued for Bradley following his time with the National Team. He became the manager of the Egyptian National Team. Though the team didn’t garner much in the way of winning, he garnered universal reverence for his handling of the squad amidst the chaotic and volatile atmosphere in Egypt during the time. Even amidst the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, Bradley and his wife opted to live in Cairo — where they were fixtures within the community.
— LAFC (@LAFC) July 27, 2017
He then made the trek to Europe — where he had stints in Norway (Stabæk), France (Le Havre), and England (Swansea City). Bradley endeared himself to the club and supporters in Norway. He led the team to the qualifying phase of the Europa League — something an American coach had never done previously. Bradley’s appointment as the manager of Stabæk also made him the first coach from the United States to have managed a club in a European top flight (meaning in the first division of any European league). A short spell with Le Havre in the French Ligue 2 proved to be successful — as evidenced by the fact that this enabled Bradley to catapult himself into a job in the Premier League.
He became the first American to manage a Premier League club. This was an incredibly significant achievement not only for Bradley on a personal level — but also for the growth of the game stateside. While it’s not openly spoken about, players coming to Europe from the United States often face an inherent bias. Many pundits, coaches, and supporters simply don’t think American players are prepared well enough for the rigors of an enhanced league. It’s true in a sense — though the development systems currently being cultivated in the United States are far better than they had previously been. Bradley earning this position truly speaks to the ever-changing narrative when speaking about Americans involved in the sport.
— LAFC (@LAFC) July 27, 2017
The pressure for those managing in the Prem is scalding. One will be second-guessed for the most innocuous of decisions. Bradley’s tenure with Swansea City lasted only 11 games before being sacked. He never quite acclimated well enough with the existing roster — nor was he able to alter the talent through the transfer window.
Alas, he’s now back in Major League Soccer after a 9-month hiatus from the game. This will be the second time in which he’s coached an expansion side. He previous guided the Chicago Fire to an MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup in the club’s inaugural year. There’s a big-time buzz currently surrounding LAFC. A state-of-the-art stadium (Banc of California Stadium) is currently being built in the shadow of the Los Angeles skyline. A star-studded list of investors and executives — including Magic Johnson, Will Ferrell, Tom Penn, Mia Hamm, Nomar Garciaparra, Henry Nguyen, Peter Guber, Tony Robbins, and Vincent Tan — have given the club the juice it needs to develop into a power within North America.
The vision for this club isn’t solely bracketed within the confines of the domestic market. LAFC instead hopes to one day become one of the top clubs in the entire world. Though the club will be brandishing plenty in the way of money, it also aims to work like a small-market club — relying on player development as opposed to splashing cash around on potentially overpriced and depreciating assets. A perfect example of this premise would be the Los Angeles Dodgers. The new front office has done a tremendous job of slashing over-the-hill, expensive parts in favor of building up their farm system. Based upon their current run, it’s easy to see why they opted for this route. This isn’t to say that the club won’t splurge for a marquee name. In fact, it’s more than feasible to assume that LAFC will sign multiple players with some serious cachet.
As we steer back to Bradley, he’s the perfect person for the job. He understands the landscape when dealing with an expansion side. Bradley also brings credibility to the table — something that could help in luring top talent to the club. Above all else, he’s got the right demeanor for the Los Angeles market. Bradley’s calm and cool attitude should mesh well with the terrain of the city.
He’s a hard working and highly experienced individual. While we don’t yet know much about the roster he’ll be working with, we do know that he’ll put his team in a position to win at a very consistent level.
Image Source: Rudy Calderon/MLS Soccer