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Americans Abroad

Bob Bradley Named Head Coach at Swansea City

Former U.S. men's national team coach Bob Bradley has taken over at Swansea City of the English Premier League, blazing a new trail for American soccer coaches everywhere. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
October 03, 2016
8:30 AM

IN A GROUNDBREAKING DEVELOPMENT, English Premier League club Swansea City announced that Bob Bradley would be the club’s new head coach, making the former United States national team boss the first American manager of a club based in a top European league.

Bradley, 58, certainly has established a long history of success in the sport. As the head coach of Princeton University, he took the Tigers to two Ivy League titles and a Final Four appearance in 1993—all program bests at the time. After making the move to Major League Soccer, he promptly coached the Chicago Fire to its only MLS Cup title in 1998.

Bradley, of course, took over the U.S. national team job in difficult circumstances after the team’s dismal performance at the 2006 World Cup. U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati had pursued Jurgen Klinsmann for six months to take the job—all the while the U.S. team decided not to play any games—only for the German to decline the offer. Bradley was then the emergency back-up on an interim basis.

Despite that, Bradley came in, did well, and forced Gulati to give him the permanent job. Bradley let the U.S. to victory at the 2007 Gold Cup with a big win over Mexico. Under his leadership the team advanced to the final of the 2009 Confederations Cup, the team's only appearance in a FIFA final. He later won the Hexagonal in convincing fashion. And even with key injuries to Charlie Davies, Oguchi Onyewu, and Stuart Holden, Bradley’s squad became the first U.S. team to win its World Cup group in 2010.

Following his dismissal after the 2011 Gold Cup loss to Mexico, Bradley took over the Egyptian national team. As the country descended into chaos, Bradley’s team fought hard in World Cup qualifying but its run came up just short with a loss to Ghana in the final round. Bradley then moved to Norway to take the Stabaek job, where he took a newly promoted team and qualified it for the Europa League. Most recently, he was at Ligue 2 side Le Havre—which narrowly missed out on promotion last year.

The news of Bradley taking the Swansea job represents the first time an American coach has ever come close to achieving such status. While former U.S. national team forward David Wagner is doing a fantastic job for Championship leaders Huddersfield, he is perceived mostly as German by locals. Bradley, however, is born and raised in the United States and truly carries the American label wherever he goes.

The Premier League is the world’s most visible league and with it having more money than ever, it is also the most demanding. Even with the Wales-based club having American ownership, expectations will be high for Bradley. And he will have his work cut out for him. Through seven games this season, Swansea has just four points and sits in 17th place in the 20-team league. The goal this year will be simple for Bradley: stay in the Premier League next year and avoid relegation.

The club has lost three straight and morale appears low and it will be a litmus test how Premier League players will respond to an American who has had no involvement in English soccer.

Bradley’s past, however, should have him prepared for the challenge ahead. He took over the U.S. when his hire enraged fans. The Egyptian job was under the most brutal of circumstances and the Stabaek gig came at a time when there were also no expectations. But Bradley has a resume of nothing but success. With every single coaching job he's had, he performed well and left the team in a better situation than when he arrived. 
The situation at Swansea is a typical entry point for a Bradley job but the reward cold be enormous if he succeeds. Already the English media is highly skeptical of his hire and many fans are skeptical of what an American could possibly know about leading a Premier League team. If Bradley can guide the team up the standings, however, it will be the first bit of evidence that the United States can export coaches and not just players and wealthy owners. 

That is a huge step in the growth of the game here and there is no one better suited to this role than Bradley.

Share your thoughts on this coaching announcement below—will you be rooting for Bradley to succeed?

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