Bob Bradley was never anyone's first choice for the US men's national team, but nevertheless I have been a defender of him since he was installed in his post. I felt that the national team had made some positive improvements under his leadership during the 2010 qualifying cycle, while at the same time being aware of his limitations. I try not to be one who overreacts to individual match results (I'm aware that I'm not always successful at this), and I do not believe that abrupt changes to the manager creates an improvement in a team in the medium- to long-term.
I now believe that it is time for Bob Bradley to be relieved of his position.
I have not arrived at this conclusion on the sole basis of the 2-1 defeat to Panama Saturday night. The match against Panama was the pinnacle of seven months of underwhelming performances by the US national team, a team that has been shown to have been lethargic, uninterested, unimaginative, and sclerotic. It is time for the Federation to recognize what has happened to the national team in the year after the World Cup and demand accountability.
I was a little too willing to brush off performances in friendlies on account that they are "only" exhibition matches, but if a national team makes it so obvious that they are uninterested in the game, as they were against Brazil at the end of last year, then they have no business scheduling the friendly much less participating in it. The national team does have an ability to fight back from adverse positions, which is good, but they have a habit of starting flat and finding themselves in those adverse situations, which is very bad. There is something broken in the team's preparation and focus that permits the national team to fall behind in matches again and again over the last three or four years, and such a broken process points to the coach.
More worrying is the lack of creativity and freshness in the squad, and the feeling that the youth national teams are not supplying adequate talent to replace the long-time regulars. It is a real shame about Charlie Davies, but there are at least options for him up front provided that Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury gain traction in international play. The difference between the veteran and youth talent becomes stark in the midfield and defensive positions, and even the conveyor belt of goalkeeping talent has begun to seize up. The progress made by the MLS academies has not been transferred to the youth national teams, and the graduates of those academies lack the experience to cope with the pressure of international play and the coaches to allow them to develop a more sophisticated technical and tactical education.
I believe that it is time for Bob Bradley to go, but if he is to be relieved, it must be followed by a comprehensive review of all of the national team programs and an assessment of the type of players that the clubs are producing and the type of players required for international success. Failing that process, the selection of the next national team manager will only be cosmetic. Moreover, if a managing change is to occur at the USSF, it needs to occur before the start of the next World Cup qualifying cycle next year.