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Americans Abroad

Soccer Insiders Give Their Take on Bob Bradley Hire

Eric Lichaj, Benny Feilhaber, Jonathan Spector, Herculez Gomez and numerous American soccer stalwarts gave ASN their thoughts on the significance of Swansea City's decision to hire the former U.S. boss.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
October 07, 2016
3:30 AM

THE NEWS OF BOB BRADLEY'S HIRE as the new manager for Swansea City was met—predictably—with a wave of criticism among club and Premier League supporters. As the first American to take a job at this level, many questioned his resume and/or football acumen.

Within American soccer circles, however, the reaction was quite different. Former players under Bradley as well as colleagues who know him well all believe he is very qualified, citing his willingness to take tough jobs and turn programs around.

We gathered reactions on Bradley's hire from some of the most prominent figures in American soccer—people who have either played under Bradley or gotten to know him well over the years.

Benny Feilhaber

The Sporting Kansas City playmaker is one of the top midfielders in MLS and previously played in Europe at Hamburg, Derby County, and AGF Aarhus. He was a mainstay on the national team under Bradley, scoring a remarkable game-winning goal against Mexico at the 2007 Gold Cup Final in what was Bradley’s first major accomplishment as the U.S. team coach.

“It is great to see Bob get the opportunity to coach in the Premier League. He has earned it with his previous successes as a coach and it will another great challenge for him. I think he will do well as Swansea’s new manager. He is a very pragmatic coach with attention to detail. This will help him solidify the team defensively which I think is of utmost importance in any relegation battle.

“This will be seen as an even bigger moment in the future as it hopefully will open more doors and opportunities for other American coaches in big European leagues.”

Jonathan Spector

After playing in the Premier League with Manchester United and West Ham, Spector is now rght back with Birmingham City in the English Championship. He played under Bob Bradley on the United States national team, with his most notable performance coming at the 2009 Confederations Cup where the U.S. advanced to the final.

“From a personal standpoint I'm happy for Bob and wish him luck at Swansea City. This is an historic moment as he is the first American coach to manage a Premier League team.

“He's shown he can be successful at various levels of the game, and I do think he can be successful at Swansea. But, everyone's definition of success will be different—whether it be keeping Swansea in the Premier League or possibly having a long tenure at the club. I think Bob's attention to details and desire to always search for ways to improve himself and his players will be the key.

“I do hope that other American managers are given opportunities in Europe's top leagues as a result of Bob's appointment because I have played for some very good American managers that I think would be well suited to coach in Europe.”

Eric Lichaj

The Nottingham Forest right back made his United States national team debut under Bob Bradley in 2010 after that year's World Cup. Bradley would later name Lichaj to the roster for the 2011 Gold Cup.

“I would just say it is a massive achievement for him and I wish him all the best. It shows the United States is finding a way into world football.”

Clarence Goodson

The San Jose Earthquake defender had a successful career in Scandinavia with IK Start in Norway and Brondby in Denmark where he served as the team’s captain. Goodson has been capped 46 times by the U.S. national team and made his debut under Bob Bradley in 2008. He also played on Bradley’s 2009 Gold Cup team and was on his roster for the 2010 World Cup.

“I'm very happy for Bob. He's worked incredibly hard to get to the position he's currently in. He's taken the road less traveled, or almost never traveled, by American coaches, been successful, and earned this promotion. I think Bob will do great. Even the biggest names hired in English football come with some skepticism. Seems it's just part of the gig. It's certainly groundbreaking and I’m sure thousands of Americans just became Swansea fans. Again, I'm happy for him and I hope his success in Europe will encourage more American coaches to step out of their comfort zone the way he has and many players have over the years.”

Michael Bradley

The Toronto FC and U.S. national team captain is the son of Bob Bradley and featured regularly on the national team when his father was the coach. His equalizing goal at the 2010 World Cup against Slovenia was an iconic image for the U.S. team in South Africa.

“I'm very, very excited. I am very, very proud. It's a dream that he's had for a very long time to be able to coach a big club in a big league. I've never seen somebody more fearless in the path or the choices he made along the way. From somebody who is obviously very close to him and who looks up to him in every way, I couldn't be more proud.”

DaMarcus Beasley

One of the most successful and well-known players in American soccer history, Beasley has earned 124 caps for the U.S. national team and played in four World Cups under three different managers, including Bradley in 2010. He is also the first American to play in the semifinal of a UEFA Champions League and has experience in the Eredivisie, the Premier League, the Bundesliga, the Scottish Premier League, Liga MX, and MLS. 

“I think he'll do great. The way Bob is as a man and as a coach, he demands a lot—first and foremost respect for the game and everything that goes with it. He's a very demanding coach and you will know exactly what he wants from each player and from you. He'll get the most out of each player. He's very organized. With Swansea not having a great start, I think he'll be the guy to settle the club down and hopefully get some good results.

“It's huge—huge. I mean, in the end of the day, he's American and this is the first time this has ever happened. From the first day, yesterday, he'll be in the spotlight. When they play their first game after the international break, all eyes are going to be on him. It won't be about the Man Us or Chelseas, it will be about Bob Bradley the American at Swansea. But he can handle that. He knows all about it. This is what he's been working toward. He definitely wanted to get to this level. He got there with all the hard work he's had with Egypt, France, and Norway. I don't expect anything less than success for Bob.”

Herculez Gomez

In 2010, a then-clubless Herculez Gomez signed with Puebla in Liga MX on a flyer. He went on a surprising push to lead Liga MX in scoring in the Clausura and Bob Bradley named him to the World Cup team where he played in three out of four games in South Africa.

“I think it's great for him. It's great for the country. You want to see not only your players playing at the highest level but the coaches and the people who are teaching the game at the highest levels too. So I think this is a great step forward for everybody. We're all very proud. 

“Anyone who knows Bob knows his work ethic and how meticulous he is. This was bound to happen sooner than later. He's that type guy. He works for what he wants and he doesn't cut corners.

“It's difficult for any manager nowadays getting players to buy in. But I know Bob and Bob is not going to care who you are, what kind of car you drive, or how much money you make. He's going to expect the same thing out of you that he would the lowest or the newest guy on the team. He expects that effort and that tactical discipline. He expects you to do your job. As for guys who aren't, he'll put them in line. If they don't conform, he'll get them out like any good manager would.

"It really is about the system with Bob. He makes it a team-first mentality. I can only speak to the brief time I was with him but there was system in play and everybody knew their job. When you have things that defined, it makes it very easy to see where it breaks down or why teams succeed. I don't expect him to change. I hope nothing changes because it's very refreshing to see a manager who doesn't care who you are, he just wants the best out of you for the team.”

Pablo Mastroeni

The Argentina-born Mastroeni is having a strong season as the coach of the Colorado Rapids. As a naturalized American, Mastroeni played regularly for the U.S. team under Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley from 2001-2009, including two World Cup appearances in 2002 and 2006.

“I think Bob has proven over the course of his coaching career that he is very knowledgeable about the game. He brings a very good mentality to the players that he coaches and creates a great environment for players to achieve their career goals. Most importantly though, he builds a great, competitive environment that brings the best out of everyone.

“I think his assignment as the new Swansea City manager will be a very positive one. I think he’s deserving of the opportunity and will take full advantage by using all of his experiences and abilities to deal with players from all parts of the world. I have the upmost respect for him as a coach and look forward to seeing him do some great leagues in the Premier League.”

Jesse Marsch

The coach of the Eastern Conference-leading New York Red Bulls is a protégé of Bradley. As a player, he played for Bradley at Princeton University, D.C. United (where Bradley was an assistant), the Chicago Fire, and Chivas USA. He also served as an assistant coach to Bradley on the U.S. national team in 2010-2011.

“It's about time. I am so happy for him. He's worked so hard to establish himself—first here, then over in Europe. I visited him in Egypt and saw first-hand the difficulties being there both personally, professionally. So now for it all to pay off in a big opportunity like this is warranted, just, and deserved. How he'll do? I think he'll do fantastic. I think he'll show what a great manager he is and what a great mind he has. I'm his biggest fan so I am so excited to watch every game. I am really happy and really excited for him.

“It still comes down to what he taught me, it's the relationships you have with your players. The way you can carefully look at things but also help players understand how to get better every day and how to, as a group, step on the field and have a mentality, commitment, and understanding of what it's going to take in the best games. So that has always been Bob's strength. That's where I learned a lot of what I believe—it was from him. I think he'll have no problem whatsoever.”

Jay DeMerit

The Wisconsin native began his pro career in the seventh tier of English soccer. He quickly moved over to Watford, however, and became an enormously popular player as it climbed to the Premier League. He only played 25 times for the U.S. national team but his appearances ame at critical times during Bradley’s tenure. He was a starter at the 2009 Confederations Cup, including a superb effort in the 2-0 win over Spain, as well as at the 2010 World Cup.

“I think it's going to be a great challenge for him, but I also think he deserves his chance. He is someone who now has a wealth of experience coaching all over the world at the highest levels for both club and country, and has had success at every one of those levels. I'm excited for him and also happy to see an American coach getting this opportunity.

“I think he will do just fine. Bob is a guy that likes a challenge and has stood up to adversity in his career. Imagine coming in to work at your FA office in Egypt only to find it's been burned down from social unrest. That's real adversity to deal with. Americans will always initially get skepticism in the English game until they can prove the fans/media wrong. He won't get a lot of time to do that, but I feel he will be up for it.

“I think it could be big, if he can do well. Initially it's a big win just see an American take the reigns of a club in the Premier League, but if he can have success, it may open up the opportunities for other Americans with the same goals.”

Thomas Rongen

Now a TV soccer analyst, the Dutch-born Rongen has been a head coach in MLS with D.C. United and Chivas USA. He also was also the head coach of the U.S. U-20 team while Bradley was the coach of the U.S. team.

“He's a guy that is as well prepared—in my opinion, better prepared—than a majority of managers in the EPL. He is very, very well educated outside of the Xs and Os. He understands how a club needs to be run. He was coaching earlier this week and then was watching an U-23 game the next day for Swansea. He is very bright. He understands prior to and during the process the needs of a club both on and off the field. That's very important and it allows him to cultivate a culture within the club. Not too many other coaches have that unique skillset that Bob has. 

“He's been a winner throughout his whole career. He's a trailblazer but he deserves everything he's getting right now. He will be under incredible scrutiny because they think he's there because of the American owners. As we known from a lot of players, that also played for me at the U-20 level that I talk to, when you walk into a locker room abroad they basically look at you and say, 'These Americans can't play.' 

“It's now even a tougher job now for Bob to take this incredible scrutiny and his employment there is going to dictate the future of maybe of a lot of American coaches—which is unfair but unfortunately will happen. There is going to be a lot of people rooting against him.

"I hope that Bob succeeds. He's stuck his neck out in a few situations and got stronger. I've coached against him and his teams are organized. His teams love to play for him. They'd run through a brick wall for him."

Maurice Edu

The Philadelphia Union player was a regular in the midfield for the U.S. national team under Bradley. At the 2010 World Cup, he famously had a game-winning goal against Slovenia wrongfully disallowed. At the club level he has also played in the Champions League for Glasgow Rangers.

“First of all, congratulations to him. It's a big move for an American to manage a Premier League club. I think it's huge. Not only for Bob himself but for Americans going forward. It's a milestone and a chance for him to set the bar. It opens the door for future managers going forward to pursue the same goals. Hopefully he does well and that earns Americans even more respect going forward. Bob is a guy who is very focused and he takes his job very seriously. He's the kind of guy who when the job is done to the outside world, he's still working overtime to figure out different things, different tactics, different ways he can improve his team. I think taking all those things he has going into a club like Swansea, the idea will be for him to go in, do well, and help the team progress. Like I said, this move alone is bigger than just himself. It's big for American soccer and how we're perceived overseas as well.”

Michael Stephens

Stephens is a midfielder for the Chicago Fire but the UCLA product was a key player for Bob Bradley’s Stabaek team that qualified for the Europa League in 2015.

“I think he can adapt to situations and do a fantastic job for them over there. I am confident in saying that I think he'll be a success. He's open to ideas and he's not a close-minded person. So I think he will be able to adapt. All this situations that he has been in have been different and he's found a way to be successful. I don't see why that would change in making this move to England. I think it's really big and I think it's great to see. It's a big step and it's obviously one of the most high profile leagues in the world. Before this, we never had a coach there. Anytime you do that, it's groundbreaking and it's big for soccer in this country.”

Joe Enochs

Enochs is currently the head coach of VFL Osnabruck in Germany’s 3.Liga where he was a club favorite as a player. The Sacramento native eared his only U.S. national team cap in 2001 in a scoreless draw with Ecuador. As of now, he and Bradley are the only two American born and raised head coaches of fully professional European teams.

“Bob Bradley getting the job at Swansea is groundbreaking. I was really excited about an American getting a job at the top level in Europe. I think he is opening doors for us Americans in Europe.”

OK, your turn: What is the significance of Bob Bradley's hire in the English Premier League? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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