|Job||American Football Coach|
|Club as Player||Los Angeles Football Club [LAFC]|
2020 04 09 Interview
[q: What is the most memorable victory of your career?] I’ll say the game against Algeria [when Landon Donovan scored the game-winner late for the U.S. in the 2010 World Cup]. It was the culmination of that cycle. That team understood how to keep playing until the end all the time, and the feeling that we all shared on the field after that game, having won the group [ahead of England], that was a special moment
[q: What is the most memorable defeat of your career?] Kumasi, 6-1, Ghana over Egypt [in the qualifying playoff for World Cup 2014]. The amount of pressure that was on the Egyptian players, everything on them on that day, they weren’t themselves. And the only game that I’ve ever watched where I had a similar feeling was when Brazil got crushed by Germany [in 2014]. That day I just looked in the eyes of so many of the players, and I just saw a blank. And they were incredible guys.
This is supposed to be rapid-fire, but I will give you a really important story. On the bus back to the hotel after the game, I realized that if they had their way, they would all just go back to their rooms and that would be it. We were staying in a small hotel in Kumasi, and I told them that when we got back we were going to meet up on the floor where all the players had their rooms. And I told them how proud I was of them. I told them that I knew how much they loved their country and that they weren’t themselves that day.
The pressure of everything that was happening in the country that day had just been too much. But nothing could ever take away from everything that they had put into it. We had won the six games in our group. That was the only game we lost in qualifying. And I just wanted them to still know how I felt about them.
I said, ‘Look, we still play Ghana [in the return leg]. There’s a small chance, and it’s pretty likely that when we get back my head will roll. But I’m going to tell all you guys right now, I’m going to fight like crazy to stand with you one more time. And if we get that chance, we’re going to still go after that game and try as best we can to turn this thing around.’
So the next few weeks were crazy. It did look at some moment like I was going to be out the door. But maybe the fact that from day one in Egypt, when [the] Port Said [stadium massacre] happened and everything else, I never looked to leave, maybe in some way that helped me. And we beat Ghana. 2-1 wasn’t enough.
But the feeling of that group after the game, and I knew that for the rest of their lives, all those guys, they’re Egyptian, that was their country. As much as I was lucky to be there for two years, it wasn’t my country. So to take the blame, take the responsibility, for me it was no problem because I wanted those guys always to be respected for what they had done during that time.
So that game will live with me forever
And they’re incredible, because every one of them will get emotional and say that I was there during a very tough time and that they know I gave everything for their country. They’re proud people, and they’re emotional people. And I’ll never forget that part.
[q: Who are the three best players you’ve ever coached?] Oh boy. Three best players? Hristo Stoitchkov. End of his career. Personality, power, intelligence, passion. The discussions that we had about his Barcelona teams, how they played, those things have always stuck with me. And then the second one, it’s interesting because it’s Mohamed Salah. And I started to work with Salah when he was 19.
At the very beginning, I looked at him and the first person I thought of was Hristo because of the power and the speed and the explosiveness and left foot and the ability to come from outside in and do incredible things. So I showed Salah clips of Stoitchkov and talked about things that I thought made Hristo so special.
And it’s been amazing for me to watch Salah develop as a player and as a person. I hear from him all the time. He’s an incredible guy, and I’m really proud of him. So I would say those two.
No. 3 gets hard. I coached Youri Djorkaeff. He’s the only player that I ever coached who won a World Cup. Obviously, Carlos Vela is a similar player to Hristo Stoitchkov and Mohamed Salah. In the league, he’s been incredible. Peter Nowak, Lubos Kubik, Landon [Donovan], Clint [Dempsey]. [Mohamed] Aboutreika. I’m not sure.
[q: Who is the best leader you’ve ever coached?] I just said Aboutreika in the last list, so maybe I’ll stick with him.
When I arrived in Egypt, people said he was too old. I didn’t pick him for the first game. We played a friendly against Brazil in Qatar. Instead of complaining about it, he publicly said-because he wasn’t playing much at Ahly at the time-‘I’m not playing much. I have to show Bob what I can do.’
And then he started to play a little bit and immediately I thought: he’s still different than all the other players. And Port Said happened. And we marched. And a day later I went to the memorial, and I saw the players and I saw their faces. And I knew what they had seen in the locker room [where fans died that day].
And I spoke quickly to Treika that night and said, ‘I’m going to come to training at Ahly next week, and then I want to speak to you.’ And I went to Ahly, and at the end I said, ‘Can we find a time to speak?’ And when no one knew about it, he came to my hotel and the two of us sat upstairs and we talked about the possibility of the World Cup, and he brought a T-shirt that he gave me.
And it was a Brazil 2014 T-shirt. And I said at the end of that meeting, because he still wasn’t playing 90 minutes: ‘Look, I don’t know whether you’re going to play 90 minutes or 45, but I need you in this.’ And he was incredible. He got his fitness back. He played at an incredibly high level. Everyone looked up to him. He’s a fantastic man. And so just for everything that he represents, I think that’s Treika.
[q: What is the best team you have ever coached against?] For sure it’s the Spain team [that Bradley’s USMNT beat 2-0 in the 2009 Confederations Cup semifinals]. Not because we beat them, but because if you think of what happened during that whole period of time. They won the Euros in 2008. They won the World Cup in 2010, they won the Euros again in 2012.
When you think of everything that went on in that period for both Barcelona and Real Madrid, where so many of the players played their club football, and just the pure quality of those players and the kind of football that they played. When we beat them in Bloemfontein, they had [gone a world-record 35 matches unbeaten and won 15 in a row].
And for all the people who said to me then and say to me now that the Confederations Cup didn’t mean anything to Spain: I went to see Barcelona train at UCLA later that year. And Xavi and Puyol and Pep [Guardiola], all of them came up to me and talked about our team and the game.
Trust me, the Confederations Cup meant something to all those guys
[q: What is the best rivalry you have ever coached in?] U.S.-Mexico. The history, obviously seeing the important games, the way different guys on either side have stepped up in different moments. What it means when you’re in qualifying in the games against Mexico. What it means to try to win the Hex. For all of us that have been lucky enough to be involved in that rivalry, that’s always special
[q: Which player in world football do you get the most pleasure out of watching today?] The “today” part means that, that I have Wyscout and InStat, so when I watch guys today, that doesn’t mean that they’re still playing today.
So I’m going to say Xavi. His pure ability to find space and the easy way that he gave his team fluidity and rhythm, the natural way of receiving and always turning the right way. The efficient use of touches, the timing, the intelligence-as special as anything I’ve ever seen
[q: Who do you most admire in world football today and why?] As a pure coach, [Pep] Guardiola. I certainly want to mention his name today, because in this global pandemic Pep lost his mom. I’ve met Pep a few times. I don’t know him well. But in the couple of times I met him, I appreciated his passion and his love of the game. I thought that was great.
And then if you’re talking about coaches in the world these days, as soon as you say Pep, then you have to say [Jürgen] Klopp. I talk about football a lot in different ways, but sometimes in its simplest form I talk about how as a team it’s like, where is the bar between Barcelona and Liverpool, right?
Barcelona is the team in terms of controlling the game, positional play, just a feeling that they could always have the ball. Liverpool: So dynamic. And it was true when Klopp was at Dortmund as well. Dynamic.
He talks about more heavy metal, and so when I gave you some of the things that I think about in football these days, I always try to think about how in some moments can you be a team that has control and understand positional play, but in other moments how can you be more free-flowing and more fluid and more vertical and more dynamic?
And so I’ve always sort of used this analogy. I used to tell my team in Stabaek that every team has to figure out where you are between Barcelona and Dortmund. And now I’ll say between Barcelona and Liverpool. And I actually think the same thing works. If you were to just take Guardiola and Klopp, as a coach I think there’s a part of me that I love the details of the game.
People who have watched training sessions see at times where I’ll stop things and correct the way a guy is receiving the ball, which foot he receives it with. In this back and forth I had with Benny Feilhaber the other day, he was nice. And he said that with all that he learned from me at the national team that the preseason in 2018 [with LAFC] he says that was the most he ever learned about football.
Because he felt that in a club environment where you had things every day that there was so much that opened up his mind. So I always believe that that’s an important part of coaching.
But then if you go to Klopp, I believe in the part of coaching that’s still human. That’s real, that’s laughing, that’s hugging, that’s making sure that guys understand that the game is not perfect and that you as a team, you’ve got to have identity and personality, and you’ve got to go for it.
I talked about our U.S. teams and look, I’ve read all the things that everybody said. I know all the people that said that we played an ‘empty bucket’ or something. And I sometimes say that actually [with] Clint and Landon, in reality we played a 4-2-2-2. And if I had told everybody that years ago, everybody would have thought I was a genius.
But I just said we played 4-4-2, but we had really good ideas on how important it was for Clint and Landon to move into those pockets, or Benny if that’s where he played, and how we could play through lines and find those guys in good positions.
And they would have attackers in front of them and we would get width from outside backs. And so I’ve always tried in my way of coaching to find a balance between the details that I love and the things that need to be coached in detail every day with a part of personality and a part of being human and a part of saying I’m wrong.
And in my worst moments, yeah, I know what I look like. I know the moments when I cross the line and people think I’m an a**hole. But I’m quick to realize that. I’m quick to tell people, ‘Look, sorry. You know, that wasn’t the right way to handle it.’
But I think that’s real. I learned a long time ago that as a coach you can’t be afraid of being yourself. You can’t be afraid of making mistakes. You can’t be afraid of crossing the line. And I think that Klopp’s got all of that. So I think that if you just talk quickly and finish on that balance between the incredible detail of Pep and what he’s been able to get his teams to do with this humanness of Klopp.
When we’re looking at what’s going on in the world right now, all of us have real feelings. And perspective. And I’m lucky, I’ve been outside the country. I’ve spent a lot of time in Africa. I know what it’s like in not only in Egypt, but I know what it’s like in all these places.
I spent five days in December in Ghana at a little academy, and those were incredible days to see these kids. And so humanness and perspective that you know, right now we’ve got people-doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, grocery people, truck drivers-so many people who are out and about keeping us going.
And you know a little bit about my parents, but in its simplest way of saying it, my mom’s dad was a plumber and my dad’s dad was a carpenter, and my dad worked on both sides of all of that before he got into something that was more heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
But this idea of real people and people that don’t have things that you have, and what their lives are all about. Even in this world of quarantine, it’s a lot easier to do it if you live in certain places and if you’ve been lucky enough in your life than it is in other situations.
And that clearly impacts the numbers that we see around the country. So the humanness and the perspective. The game is special, and those of us that get to work in it every day are really lucky. But you can never lose the connection with all of the people in the world who just-to see a game, to meet a player, to kick a ball-man, that’s so special to them.
And so to me that’s always important. So even in my moments when I lose it a little bit, I never lose perspective.
2020 04 14 Retrieve
[LAFC coach Bob Bradley leans on Springsteen for inspiration during shutdown] It’s not that it’s Springsteen every day. There’s a part of the song where it says, ‘Hurricane blows, brings a hard rain/When the blue sky breaks, feels like the world’s gonna change,’. How fitting that [is] for the situation we’re all in
Games without fans, they’re sad in a way. We’re also in unprecedented times and so I know that the kind of discussions that lead toward restarting without fans, that’s still a way to reconnect. It will be a challenge for sure. You’ve got to find ways in tough times to adapt. It’s not what any player in the world would want. A game without fans has no soul. But this is different
[Bradley managed the Egyptian national team during a time of domestic turmoil that forced it to play a World Cup qualifier in an empty 86,000-seat stadium in 2012] I remember when we trained in the stadium the night before the game. We gathered everybody before we started training and we said, ‘Try to look into the stands and imagine that there’s 90-million Egyptians here. Because if they had the chance, all of them would be here with us.’
2020 04 26 Retrieve
[q: How and why did you get started in coaching?] There weren’t good opportunities to play. In that regard I wasn’t a great player and the fact that the NASL had started to come down and the difficulty of Americans playing. My best position was a forward and it was impossible for American forwards to have opportunities. Again, I was someone who worked hard and probably understood how to play and made the most of my ability, but certainly not a great player. I had a chance to go back to grad school at Ohio University, getting my masters degree in sports administration and coach the team. I was 22 and the opportunity to be a head coach and try out some of the ideas I had to train the team and how the game should be played, it was a great experience. Obviously, the program was not big time, otherwise they wouldn’t be hiring a 22-year-old in grad school to coach their team.
[q: Do you remember much or anything about your first game there or first season?] What I remember is just that Ohio University has a very large international student population. So, the experiences that year were around dealing with players from different places. I think we had a center forward from Lebanon. We had some players from Iran, maybe Iraq. I had an Algerian assistant coach. There were four or five players on the team who were older than I was. It was a unique experience. We had some good moments. It was more about the experience and dealing with players from different places
[q: What did you learn about the most in that first year?] You had a chance to try out ideas that you took from the game. I still thought like a player. I tried to do things to me that made sense to me from a players’ standpoint. I think that’s still important. Sometimes people try to make it seem like when you’re all done playing, you stop everything you’ve done as a player and now you learn how to be a coach. There is some truth to that, but there is a carry-over. I think the lessons that you have in terms what makes for a good training session and how the best coach handles teams and handle tactics, those thoughts that you have as a player are still key to piecing together your ideas as a coach.
[q: Is there one coach who has influenced you more than anyone else?] The obvious people to point out is the experiences I had with Bruce (Arena, the national coach) and with Manny (Schellscheidt, Seton Hall). To be fair, those experiences also would include now a lot of other people - Bobby Montgomery, Tommy Lange, Dieter Ficken, people who were involved with Region 1, a host of people in and around the Princeton area who were involved in a lot of different levels. When I left Ohio University, I had a chance to go to Virginia to be assistant soccer coach and assistant sports promotions director. My friend Paul Malone was in grad school. He had helped Bruce a little bit. He said to me, ‘You ought to come down and meet Bruce. He could use some help,’ because Bruce was hired at Virginia to be the assistant lacrosse coach. The head soccer position was to be the other part of the job (with) the assistant lacrosse coach. They found somebody who had experience in both. But even the spring, Bruce was busy with the lacrosse team, so the opportunity to run the spring program and do things on my own was there. We became good friends, we remained good friends. I think we’re always challenging and pushing each other. Even after I left, came back to Princeton, we still managed to do different things in the game together. it was 20 years ago, that Bruce, Paul Malone and I went to France to the 1984 European Championships. Experiences like that were invaluable, plus fun.
When I came back to Princeton, it was the opportunity to be back in New Jersey, to coach at the school where I played. All those were all positives. It also was to be more involved in the game every day. That was easier accomplished in this area than it was in Charlottesville. The starting point with that was doing a lot of things with Manfred - Lancers. We ended up winning the McGuire Cup (Under-19 national championship) in ‘87 and ‘88. We had a bunch of really good players that came through the Lancers. That was always an exciting place to be around. Whenever we traveled, we were the most low-budget operation of all. Everybody would have the cars. It would always be that I would jump in with Manfred in a Volkswagen Rabbit. The players didn’t want to be in the car with us because they didn’t want to hear soccer discussed for hour after hour after hour. There were a lot of those kinds of trips, a lot of those kinds of experiences. To this day, Manfred remains one of my best friends. We speak, I’m sure, weekly. These are two people I’ve enjoyed every part of sharing the game with them and friendships
[q: Are there any coaches today who you admire or you follow or you look at their theories perhaps more than others?] That would be true in different sports. You see at people and you get a sense of the way they run their teams, the way they handle players that you appreciate and respect their way and their ability. You can take little bits and pieces from so many people. Then again, it’s fresh on everyone’s minds where you have a year where Larry Brown wins his first NBA championship. Larry Brown has a reputation for being a great teacher. You get a sense he gets his players to play unselfishly, play as a team, play the game the right way, that he has a way of bringing that out. When you see that in action with a team like the Pistons this year, you respect that. So that can happen, honestly, at a lot of levels in all sports. It doesn’t have to be a professional level. Sometimes you see a high school coach, a youth coach, a college coach who just has the players seem to enjoy playing for them. The team plays the right way and acts the right way. When you see that you can figure somebody is doing a good jobs
[q: When you’re on the bench and it is a hotly contested game, can you sometimes kick back and say, “Hey, this is one beautiful game or this is one great game,” even though you’ve got to work during it?] Yeah, sometimes. But you’re still paying attention to little things in the game in terms of trying to figure out a couple of comments that you can make to your players, at halftime maybe the change or two that can make a difference. Every now and then you have a day when either the game itself is of a very high level or certain players do things that are enjoyable to watch. I can certainly say that sometimes you have a team, even as that coach you can appreciate and enjoy what that team is able to do most games. And other times you have a team where it’s not so easy and its more effort and trying to do all the little things right. But its not that it ever comes easy. Certainly the goal is always to have a team that at a certain point the players can take it over and that team can really play at a high level. If that was so easy, everybody would do it. So I guess that’s part of the challenge
[q: Do you feel that your coaching is done before the game and there is a limit what you can do during the game?] By and large soccer works that way. There’s little things just in terms on how you deal with your players and a couple of comments you make, a couple of subs and the tone you set. But for the most part, soccer is a game where you’re not having a tremendous impact throughout the game
[q: Is there one game that stands out as the most memorable one?] The ‘96 MLS Cup in Foxboro was unbelievable. First year. The comeback. The ‘97 MLS Cup was in D.C. ‘98 was our team in Chicago. Open Cups. We won the double in Chicago that year on a golden goal by Frankie Klopas. That was an incredible night for people in Chicago. But there are other things along the way where our team as a whole steps up. We won a semifinal Open Cup match down a man against the Galaxy with the Fire in Fullerton (Calif.). Josh Wolff scored a golden goal. It was a tremendous effort by a bunch of guys. Carlos Bocanegra had been red-carded. Peter Nowak had to be taken out of the game. I’m not sure, but I think (Luis) Hernandez had a pretty bad foul on Peter and Peter had to come out of the game. We were down a man and we were able to score a goal in extratime. That was indicative of the heart and character of that team. You remember a lot of games at a lot of levels.
I remember losses. One of the games we probably talk about more than any other was when I was at Princeton one year. We played Harvard and they were ranked first in the country. We had a very young team. Jimmy Mueller was a freshman. Chris Unger and Karl Schellscheidt were sophomores. After 75 minutes up at Harvard we were ahead 3-0. And we had chances to get the fourth. It ended up they tied it at 3-3 and then with two minutes to go we scored to go ahead 4-3 and then they got a penalty kick literally in the last few seconds and they won in overtime. So that’s still a game we all shake our heads about. There are plenty of games along the way on all levels. When you see the people involved on that night, its fun to remember.
[q: Do you bring home wins and losses or do you shake it out of your system?] For the most part, no. It’s not always easy on your family. My role in the house is to make sure I set a good example. That means, you know what, you try to teach your players how to compete, how to give everything while the game is being played and then feel good afterwards. There is nothing more you can at that point. So, for the most part I think things don’t get brought home. We carry on. I certainly feel like part of what you try to do is keep a steady hand and your team and don’t let the ups and downs interfere with the process of getting better. That seems pretty simple
[q: What is the most difficult job you have to do as a coach? Is it telling a player that he isn’t going to make cut or is it something else?] We all waited a long time for professional soccer. There are a lot of exciting days. The league has grown by leaps and bounds. But it’s professional soccer. That’s what people do for a living. Then sometimes it’s good. Decisions impact lives and families. That unfortunately goes with the territory. You still try to do it man-to-man and in a straight-forward way. That’s still part of the job that doesn’t go away
[q: What is the most gratifying thing about being a coach?] Seeing a group come together, seeing a group learn how to play at a high level, compete unselfishly and play as a team, and to know how to give everything they have to compete as a group while on the field. When you have that, then that’s a nice thing to see.
[q: If you weren’t coaching, what would you be doing?] I’m sure I would be involved in sports. But I still enjoy the side of sports that’s on the field. There was maybe a point early on where I felt perhaps being an athletic director in a university would be of interest. The more I was able to really look at who like and what I like and everything, I still preferred dealing with the players, being on the field as opposed to just doing all of the administrative detail work