Tippeligaen

Bradley works miracle, leads Stabaek to European qualification

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Bob Bradly is a miracle worker. And that is probably an understatement.

On Sunday he led Norwegian minnows Stabaek to European qualification, as De blaa beat Start 3-2 to guarantee at least a third-placed finish in the Norwegian top-flight.

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Reaching the Europa League is an incredible achievement for Bradley and his talented backroom staff — which include Tomasz Kaczmarek and Jan Peder Jalland as coaches and sporting director Andre Inge Olsen — given the limited resources available to him at Stabaek and with his contract up in the next few weeks, it caps off a wonderful two years since he left the Egyptian national team and arrived as the first American coach to ever manage in a top-flight league in Europe.

Bradley, 57, told PST in September that he isn’t sure what the future holds and despite Stabaek holding talks with him about a new deal, it is widely believed the former U.S. national team head coach will now move on to his next challenge. He has been linked with many jobs in Norway, England, Germany and France in recent months, the most intriguing of which seems to be Le Harve in Ligue 2. However things pan out, Bradley has helped the profile of American coaches grow in Europe as his exploits in Norway have not gone unnoticed.

[ SPORTSWORLD: JPW visits Bradley in Norway ]

ICYMI, last summer I took a trip to Norway and followed Bradley and his team around at their modest home at Nadderud Stadion as well as on a road trip to play Norwegian powerhouses Rosenborg. Read all about that here on NBC SportsWorld. In Norway he has been lauded as the “greatest manager there has ever been” in the top-flight as well as often appearing on national TV, speaking at national coaching conferences and becoming a benchmark for managing at a time when the nation has seen an upsurge in success both domestically and with the national team.

Heading into their final game of the season the situation is simple for Stabaek. If they beat Bodø/Glimt and Stromsgodset lose or draw against Vålerenga, they will finish in second place and grab the silver medal as the runners up. When it comes to European qualification, finishing in second spot also has a big advantage over finishing in third. Whoever finishes second in the Tippeligaen qualifies for the second round of Europa League qualifying for the 2016-17 season, while the third place team has to start in the first round of qualifying.

[ MORE: Bradley chats success at Stabaek ]

Not much of a difference, but still, a second place finish means only three home and home ties would have to be won to reach the group stages of the Europa League instead of four if Stabaek was to finish in third. Stabaek last qualified for the Europa League in three successive years from 2009-13 but lost in the qualifying rounds on each occasion. The closest they came to making the group stage was in 2009-10 when they lost to Spanish giants Valencia 7-1 on aggregate in the play-off round. The Baerum side also reached the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League in the same season but that run of three-straight runs to Europe came amid a huge cash injection into the squad which was unsustainable and ultimately led to Stabaek almost going bankrupt, plus their eventual relegation to the second-tier of Norwegian soccer.

[ MORE: Tracking Bradley’s Norwegian adventure ]

Bradley’s achievements over the past few years usurp those previous qualifications to Europe Stabaek had. No doubt. The New Jersey native took charge of the club on a shoestring budget in early 2014 just after they had been promoted back to Tippeligaen and in each of the last two years Stabaek have been tipped for relegation. Under Bradley’s stewardship they finished an impressive ninth last season — despite losing several players to bigger clubs and having to get creative with the transfer market with extremely limited resources — after leading the way in the early months. This season they overcame a complete roster overhaul, and endured similar issues with losing key players mid-season, to fight tooth and nail with giants Rosenborg for the title as well as reaching the semifinal of the Norwegian cup in both campaigns.

The first-ever American to coach in a European top-flight has exceeded all expectations and he should be lauded and applauded for doing so. Whether he stays with Stabaek or moves onto the next challenge, we will have to wait and see. Whatever happens, Bradley’s achievements at Stabaek have been nothing short of astounding.

Report: Bradley approached by Norwegian giant Molde

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While no one in the world — not even the man himself — knows exactly what’s next for Bob Bradley, Norwegian newspaper VG reported on Monday that the former U.S. national team head coach and current Stabaek (Norway) manager has been approached by Norwegian giant Molde regarding the defending Tippeligaen champions’ vacant managerial job.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Bradley, who’s been at Stabaek, a relatively tiny Norwegian club, for almost two full seasons now, has won respect and plaudits across Norway’s top division since the day he stepped foot in Scandinavia. In Bradley’s first season, De blaa (the Blue Ones) finished 9th in their first season back in Norway’s top division. This season, Bradley has the miniscule-budgeted Baerum (near Oslo) club second with five games to go. If the season were to end today, Stabaek would qualify for next year’s UEFA Europa League.

With his contract expiring at the end of the 2015 season, Bradley is rightly a hot commodity in Norway — there’s the new Molde rumor to go along with Stabaek’s desire to re-sign the 57-year-old American — though higher acclaim still seems fitting.

[ EXCLUSIVE: JPW talks to Bob about time at Stabaek, what comes next ]

While the clubs from the likes of England, Germany and Italy haven’t yet come calling for his services, perhaps moving to and having even greater success at Molde is what finally puts Bradley on the map for first-division jobs in the aforementioned countries. Succeeding at a club with higher expectations and a much larger budget is a task Bradley is likely to face anywhere within the “big time” of European football.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spent four years in charge of Molde before getting the call from Premier League side Cardiff City in January 2014.

Bob Bradley update: Ex-USMNT boss’s tiny Stabaek sits 2nd in Norway

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Wherever he goes, Bod Bradley has been a winner. In most stops along his almost-20-year coaching career, he’s had success in abundance, and he’s typically done so quickly.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

For instance, there was his run with the Chicago Fire, in which Bradley led the secon-year club to one MLS Cup and two US Open Cups in five full seasons. Then there was the 2006 iteration of Chivas USA, which Bradley managed to the conference finals in the club’s second season of existence.

So, it’s really no surprise that Bradley’s current club, Stabaek Fotball (Tippeligaen — Norwegian first-division), now sits second in the league (seven of 30 games played) after Saturday’s 2-0 victory over local rivals Valerenga. Saturday’s triumph was marked five wins in a row for Bradley’s tiny Baerum side, keeping De blaa (The Blue Ones) three points off the pace of current leaders Rosenborg. It’s been 465 minutes since they last conceded a league goal.

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Following promotion from Norway’s second division in 2013, Bradley took over at Stabaek ahead of the 2014 season. His side quickly raced out to a top-half place early in the season before fading late and ultimately finishing 9th out of 16 teams.

Stabaek’s current run comes, of course, on a shoestring budget, one which restricts Bradley from signing more than a couple new players each offseason. Thus far, Bradley has leaned heavily on a pair of nondescript Americans — midfielders Michael Stephens, now with the Chicago Fire, and Cole Grossman, formerly of Real Salt Lake — as his “star” signings, and has been rewarded with stellar contributions from each player.

Translated: One can only hope the Norwegian club leaders looking at Bob Bradley and realize that it might have something for them to think a little outside the box from time to time.

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Of course there was Bradley’s five-year tenure as U.S. national team head coach, in which the Yanks won the 2007 Gold Cup and finished runners-up in 2009 and 2011, finished runners-up at the 2009 Confederations Cup and advanced to the round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup. Bradley also took the Egyptian national team to the brink of World Cup qualification in 2014, only to lose out in the final playoff round after achieving the only perfect record through African qualifying to that point. We should have seen this coming.

Again, none of Bradley’s success at Stabaek is in any way surprising. Nor is it a shock that, despite his past resumé, he was overlooked for every “bigger” European job while unemployed last winter. Despite what he’s doing in Norway, he’ll likely continue as an afterthought while clubs hire less accomplished and pedigreed coaches time after time.

Report: Colorado Rapids’ Deshorn Brown set for transfer to Norwegian club Valerenga

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Colorado Rapids forward Deshorn Brown is close to completing a move from Major League Soccer to Norwegian powerhouse Valerenga, according to multiple reports this weekend and on Monday.

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Brown, who led the Rapids in scoring each of his first two seasons as a pro (10 goals a piece), was reportedly held out of a training session last week as Valerenga managing director Stig-Ove Sandnes was in the States to complete the deal, according to a report by the Denver Post, while the team did not play this past weekend.

For their part in the deal, the Rapids are reportedly in line to collect a healthy transfer fee for the seven-times-capped Jamaican national team forward, according to further reports:

Brown’s age, 24, and high upside, given his exceptional athleticism, size and strength, always made him a likely candidate to make the jump to Europe at some point, though one game into his third pro season is somewhat peculiar — and unfortunate — timing.

It’s hardly an ideal situation, a team losing its leading goalscorer for two years running, but a quick look at the Rapids’ roster shows they may have anticipated Brown’s departure for quite some time. Panamanian attacker Garbiel Torres is likely to move back into his original center forward role, while 20-year-old Charles Eloundou has been a heralded prospect since his acquisition in 2013. Uruguayan forward Vicente Sanchez, 35, scored six league goals for Colorado last year.

Bob Bradley in talks with Norwegian club Stabaek

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ESPN is reporting that former US men’s national team coach Bob Bradley has confirmed he is in talks with Norwegian club Stabaek.

“Of the different discussions that are going on right now, the one with Staebek is the furthest along,” Bradley said. “The discussions I have had with them have been positive.”

Norway’s top division, known as the Tippeligaen, is hardly the Graceland for European coaching destinations but Bradley’s desire to manage on the continent seems to overcome the league’s lack of notoriety.

And with Stabaek having recently fired head coach Petter Belsvik, the decision is one that may be made sooner rather than later.

“I feel strongly that working in that situation with my experience and, with what they want to do, we can find our way to making a team successful,” he said. “I am excited about those conversations, but nothing’s final yet and in the meantime, there are other discussions are going on. It’s a time when you have to see how other things play out.”

Bradley recently completed an incredible run as coach of Egypt where he brought the Pharaohs to the brink of World Cup qualification before losing in a two-legged playoff to Ghana, last November.

Following his side’s 7-3 aggregate defeat the Egyptian FA decided against renewing Bradley’s contract. Disappointed and sad at falling short of the World Cup, the American coach now looks forward to the next step in the road: Europe.

“Shortly after I got fired by the U.S., the Egypt opportunity came along,” he said. “This was once in a lifetime but it’s important to continue in the direction I set out on, which is to be in Europe, to be in a club situation. I understand that to get your foot into the door, it can be difficult. I’ve had my name put in at different times along the way.”

Stabaek was founded in 1912 and has won the Tippeligaen a single time, in 2008. After a 16th finish in 2012 they were relegated to the Adeccoligaen (Norway 2nd Division) where they finished in second place earning immediate promotion back to the top-flight.

Stabaek’s 2014 Tippeligaen season begins on March 29th when De blaa welcome Sogndal to the 7,000 person capacity Nadderud Stadion.