Photo Courtesy: www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup - Bob Bradley
Bob Bradley’s biggest challenge as coach of the U.S. men’s soccer team — the 2010 World Cup in South Africa — is about to begin.
His achievements, though, have already earned him honors and praise.
In 2009, Bradley guided the national team to perhaps its most successful year ever. The team won its World Cup qualifying group and advanced to the championship games of the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the FIFA Confederations Cup.
In March, the U.S. Olympic Committee acknowledged that when it selected Bradley as the 2009 National Coach of the Year. The award will be formally presented next week at the National Coaching Educators’ Conference in Savannah, Ga.
Bradley is the first soccer coach to win the award in its 13-year history, but he won’t be in Georgia to pick it up.
But he has a good excuse.
Team USA opens its World Cup campaign on Saturday when it plays England (2:30 p.m. ET, ABC). The United States will face Slovenia June 18, the day after the USOC awards ceremony in Savannah, and will finish group play June 23 against Algeria.
“I am honored to accept this award on behalf of our team as recognition for their outstanding performance in 2009,” Bradley said after receiving the award in March. “Qualifying for the 2010 World Cup and reaching the finals of two major international tournaments were certainly important achievements and represent the collective effort of this group for the past three years. We often speak of the honor and privilege of representing your country, and we take great pride in trying to live up to that responsibility.”
Team USA is hoping for another strong showing in South Africa, the same site as the 2009 Confederations Cup. The United States had never appeared in the final of a FIFA-sanctioned tournament before reaching the Confederations Cup title game last year against Brazil. The team reached that final game by upsetting top-ranked Spain 2-0 in the semifinals.
After the Confederations Cup, a mostly-reserve U.S. team finished second in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the biennial championship of North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Team USA finished a busy stretch when it sealed first place in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying competition in October.
Despite the success he’s had, few were thrilled when Bradley was hired to replace Bruce Arena after the 2006 World Cup. The popular — and flashier — choice for many fans was legendary German striker Jürgen Klinsmann, who had just guided Germany to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup in his managerial debut.
Instead they got Bradley, a manager with strong credentials in the United States but who lacked the international acclaim of Klinsmann. Bradley did little to win over fans with his natural charisma. Always a stoic manager, Bradley is not one to show much emotion on the sideline — regardless of the result.
But Bradley, a tireless worker and devotee to watching film, slowly but surely began righting the