The Return of FIRE BOB!

Friday, September 11, 2009 | View Comments
Bob Bradley>

The US National Team's fan base is a conflicted bunch. While some are happy that qualification is close, more than a few are nevertheless disappointed with the way recent results have been earned. The Americans haven't imposed their will on their last two opponents, despite those nations being the two bringing up the rear of the CONCACAF Hexagonal standings. With that displeasure come the obvious heat on head man Bob Bradley.

It's a sporting certainty; when things aren't going the way people think they should, the head coach gets all the blame.

And so the internet soccer community is abuzz with criticisms and defenses.

On one side, "They should be better, it's Bradley's fault, we need a new man."

On the other, "He's done well with what he has, you have an unrealistic view of the team."

So who holds the high ground in this age-old debate? It's likely to follow Bradley all the way to South Africa, and the results there will ultimately determine his fate; but for the time being, while qualification is still not yet confirmed and the team struggles to beat the lesser lights of the region, the sniping and reactionary shout downs will continue unabated.

The last time Bradley's job performance was such a hot topic, the US had yet to earn their signature in South Africa at the Confederations Cup. I wrote on the subject, called for Bradley to resign, and gave some credence to the argument that perhaps the job was too much for the Princeton man.

And then the United States beat the top ranked team in the world.

Most of my reservations about Bradley, ones that still may be legitimate despite the late run in South Africa, went out the window; how could I, or anyone, suggest that Bradley should lose his job with a straight face?

Yet, here we are, only a few months later and after an up and down summer, and the shouting has resumed. To be fair, many of the fans who were calling for Bradley's job then were never really convinced despite the victory over Spain; they simply receded into the background for a time, keeping their opinions to themselves and waiting for an opportunity to return.

I don't necessarily agree with them, but I reject the notion that their opinion is not worthwhile, or that they're overrating the team by supposing that another manager could have the US playing better. The grass is always greener, or so they say, and because the issues is a subjective one and their supposition inherently unprovable, it's equally as valid as the opposite viewpoint.

Why would accepting poor performances, wins or not, be okay simply because the US doesn't have "top talent"? The talent is good enough to compete with most of the world, certainly, as proven this summer. If the margins between great, good, passable, and terrible are so small, then the actions and abilities of the manager are absolutely crucial. We've seen Bob Bradley get the best out of this team, and so we know he is capable. But we've also see the team struggle when they shouldn't, or play poorly and look lethargic when there is no excuse; criticism should follow those lesser performances, whether the US is a world power or not.

It's a delicate balance. The US has talent, good players who can play great together, but lacks the extra quality that would allow for consistent play, even against the weaker teams in the final round of qualifying.

Does that mean Bob Bradley should get a free pass? I don't think so.

So yell away, FIRE BOB! crowd. I won't exactly be cheering you on, but I understand why you're shouting.
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