Getty Images

What does Bradley’s hiring at Swansea mean for American soccer?

13 Comments

Game-changer.

That sums up what Bob Bradley’s appointment as Swansea City’s new manager on Monday could be.

[ MORE: Key US figures react ]

Bradley, 58, has been chipping away for a chance like this for many years and Swansea’s new U.S. majority owners have handed him the keys to the Liberty Stadium.

This is a huge opportunity for not only Bradley but for the whole of the U.S. soccer community to be taken more seriously in Europe. That’s not an overstatement.

For many years any of us involved in the U.S. soccer scene have had to listened to digs and jibes from around the world about a nation which has not traditionally been a passionate patron of the beautiful game.

“What do Yanks know about football?” or “He’s American, what’s the point?” are already some of the responses to Bradley getting the Swansea job. Those responses are, sadly, far too predictable.

But what does being American have anything to do with being a good coach? It shouldn’t have anything to do with it but we all know it does.

[ LONGFORM: Bradley’s journey in Norway

Bradley himself has spoken out in the past about the same group of coaches getting jobs time and time again in the Premier League and Europe’s top leagues. Whether it is because they’re English and seem a safe bet, the circuit has been a closed shop for some time. Now, though, Bradley has a chance to prove just how good of a coach he is. Simply put, his nationality probably played a part in him not getting this chance 10 years ago.

Those attitudes and beliefs have often hindered not only American coaches but also American players getting chances in Europe’s elite leagues. Look around Europe’s top leagues today. There are a handful of U.S. players in Germany, five total in the Premier League and a few others scattered around. After that, well, U.S. youngsters at academies across Europe are battling away but are facing similar problems.

Back in 2014 I traveled to Norway to sit down with Bob and see his work firsthand with tiny Norwegian side Stabaek, but also to talk about why American’s have found it so hard to gain respect in Europe.

“In its simplest form, as much as the game has grown in the U.S., players and coaches earning respect in Europe is still not easy,” Bradley said. “Actually when we [U.S. national team] had success in the Confederations Cup and then in the World Cup, many football people spoke very highly of the way we played as a team, our football, our results. What we accomplished but still that part of what it means for players getting chances at a big clubs… what does that mean for coaches getting chances? It still takes time. We are still in the midst of it, there’s no two ways about it.”

His resume is helping some of the barriers to be broken down but it will still take time. For instance, Ryan Giggs, who has zero head-coaching experience, was Swansea’s other option here and is many of Swansea’s fans are talking about him being a better option compared to Bradley’s almost four decades coaching in the game.

Bradley started off on home soil and led the expansion franchise Chicago Fire to an MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup in their inaugural season. Then led Chivas USA to the playoffs before taking over the U.S. national team before heading overseas for the last five years in Egypt, Norway and France.

He is a disciple of Bruce Arena and was his assistant at the University of Virginia and D.C. United in MLS’ formative years. Bradley has been described by many as a founding father of American soccer along with Arena. During his days with the U.S. national team from 2006-11 he won the 2007 Gold Cup, took the U.S. to the 2009 Confederations Cup final after shocking Spain in the semifinals and reached the Round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup. The U.S. national team, despite arguably having a stronger player pool now than when Bradley was in charge, has struggled to reach those heights.

The New Jersey native then moved to Egypt and took them to the brink of the World Cup in hugely trying circumstance during the Arab spring. He then proved his worth at Stabaek in Norway’s top-flight in 2014 and 2015 (he became the first-ever American to coach in a European top-flight there, by the way) taking the newly promoted side to third-place in his second season as they qualified for Europe. His most recent job was at Le Havre where he stepped down to France’s second-tier midway through last season and took them to within one goal of promotion to Ligue 1.

All of this says that Bradley has earned his chance to manage in the Premier League after being previously linked with the jobs at West Brom, Aston Villa, Sunderland Hull City and Fulham. Now is his chance to show the world, and mostly European soccer’s elite, that an American can succeed in the Premier League, and Europe, as a coach. This is a big chance for the American game to gain more respect globally.

Being successful at Swansea will be initially keeping them in the PL and then building them into a stable midtable club, something they’ve been since they arrived in the top-flight in 2011. The Princeton graduate will have to do that while also carrying the baggage of being an American. He’s used to it but it doesn’t make the task any easier.

Bradley doesn’t like to be known as a trailblazer and someone who is flying the American flag overseas but he is. That’s the only way he’s been able to get on people’s radar and that has eventually led to him getting this opportunity in the most-watched and competitive league on the planet.

His former assistant coach at Stabaek, Tomasz Kaczmarek, back in 2014, summed up the situation regarding the lack of respect for Americans in soccer perfectly.

“Look. All of the players, whether it is in Europe or in Egypt, they work with Bob and nobody thinks of him as American. They think he’s a damn good football coach,” Kaczmarek said, defiantly. “This is all they see and all they care about. They see he is a good leader and he makes the players better so they respect him and appreciate him. I believe on the outside there are too many people who say, ‘Oh yeah, he’s American. He can’t be a good coach. How can an American know something about football?’ This is not only in this case. There are too many people in football who don’t look deep enough. Don’t look at the work that is being done and the way the team plays. That is probably the biggest challenge for him going forward, to make sure that people on the outside recognize that he is American, yes, but he is a very good coach.”

Maybe one day coaches from the U.S. will be hired all across Europe and the rest of the world without a second glance at their passport. If we ever get to that point, there’s no doubting that Bradley’s appointment and any subsequent success he has at Swansea will have been a key factor in helping that happen.

Don’t underestimate how monumental of a moment this is for American soccer.

Copa America roundup: Uruguay tops Chile; Full knockout bracket

AP Photo/Leo Correa
Leave a comment

Ecuador and Japan drew to allow Paraguay to sew up the final knockout round spot, sending Miguel Almiron and Co. into a match-up with Brazil.

[ MORE: Johannsson to MLS? ]

And Uruguay rode Edinson Cavani’s goal into the other side of the bracket, moving ahead of Chile in a tight match.

Ecuador 1-1 Japan

There was a lot to like in a match with 30-plus shots and the ultimate prize of a match-up with Brazil on Thursday in Porto Alegre.

Shoya Nakajima put the Asian side ahead a quarter-hour into the match, but Angel Mena provided an equalizer before halftime to put both sides in danger of failure to reach the knockout rounds.

Chile 0-1 Uruguay

Cavani scored for the second time this tournament as Uruguay claimed first place in Group A and a knockout round meeting with Peru.

Cavani’s deftly flicked header of a Jonathan Rodriguez pass pushed Uruguay above Chile, which had won both of its group matches and now meets Colombia on Friday.

Knockout round schedule

June 27
Brazil v. Paraguay

June 28
Venezuela v. Argentina
Colombia v. Chile

June 29
Uruguay v. Peru

July 2
Brazil/Paraguay v. Venezuela/Argentina
Colombia/Chile v. Uruguay/Peru

July 6
Third place playoff

July 7
Final

Norwich City adds Switzerland international Drmic on free transfer

Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Norwich City has added a new star striker to a unit which produced 93 goals in the Championship last season.

Josip Drmic will join Swiss national teammate Timm Klose with the Canaries for the next three seasons, hoping to bring his Bundesliga and international experience to a Premier League safety campaign.

[ MORE: Johannsson to MLS? ]

Drmic turns 27 next month, and scored two goals in five appearances for Borussia Monchengladbach last season. He has 31 goals and seven assists in 107 Bundesliga appearances between Gladbach, Hamburger SV, Bayer Leverkusen, and Nurnberg.

Coach Daniel Farke got 30 goals from target forward Teemu Pukki, who plays a similar role to Drmic and has plenty of top flight experience with Celtic and Schalke amongst others.

Drmic can also operate on the wing, usually left over right, and has featured in both the 2014 and 2018 World Cup. From Canaries.co.uk:

“I’m going to do everything and give 100% on the pitch. I will be ready to give everything for the club. My job is scoring but I also want to help my team and help us be successful.

“When I first came to Norwich, the first thing I noticed was how kind everybody was. It’s given me a lot of positive energy and I’m excited to see what happens.”

Between Pukki and Drmic, Norwich can have faith that its well-prepared to have an answer up top.

Canada’s Beckie: Sinclair asked if I wanted to take penalty v. Sweden

Photo by Marcio Machado/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Prolific forward Janine Beckie didn’t dodge cameras after her missed penalty helped seal Canada’s fate at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, and she also explained why legendary striker Christine Sinclair wasn’t at the spot.

Beckie, 24, scored two goals in Canada’s run to the bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and the Houston Dash forward and Texas Tech product has 25 goals in 57 caps.

[ MORE: Sweden tops Canada ]

The American-born Beckie was called upon to try to level the score against Sweden on Monday in the Round of 16, and took a solid effort which was parried by Hedvig Lindahl in an outstanding bit of goalkeeping.

“I’m confident in my penalty,” Beckie said. “I thought I hit it really well. I thought she made a really good save. It’s the big moments. It’s the moments that you live for. You get all the glory if it goes in, and you take the blame it feels like if you miss. That’ll stay with me for a long time.”

So why was she at the spot? Here’s Beckie on TSN, and Sinclair’s confirmation of the tale. As we expected, Lindahl’s success against Sinclair at the Algarve Cup played a role.

“Christine actually asked me if I wanted to take it. That’s a big moment for me and it’s gonna be hard for a while.”

Full marks for stepping up to both places: The penalty spot and the post-match interview.

Watch Live: Copa America — Group C finales

MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images
Leave a comment

We’ll know the full knockout round bracket following the conclusion of Group C play at the 2019 Copa America on Monday.

[ WATCH LIVE: Copa America play on Telemundo ]

If Chile draws or defeats Uruguay, it will meet Peru in the quarterfinals, sending Uruguay into a date with perfect Colombia.

Meanwhile Japan and Ecuador meet knowing a win is necessary to hope for any further dates in Brazil.

As it stands, Peru is one of the third-place teams to qualify for the next stage, while Paraguay needs Japan and Ecuador to draw in order to hold onto its spot.

You can watch every single game from the tournament live online in Spanish via Telemundo Deportes and via the NBC Sports App. All you have to do is click on the links below.

2019 Copa America schedule

Group C: Chile v. Uruguay – 7 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE
Group C: Japan v. Ecuador – 7 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE

Check back later for recaps and highlights.