Soccer  > General Soccer  > Americans begin World Cup autopsy
July 1, 2010, 10:23 AM
By Michael Lewis

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- If the United States is becoming more ingrained in the international soccer culture, no surer sign is the World Cup post-mortem.

Like every other team that failed to meet its aspirations, or at least its expectations, the Americans next will dissect what was done wrong and what must change.

* Will Bob Bradley return as coach or be replace him a high-profile foreign manager?

* When will Landon Donovan sign with Everton or another English Premier League club?

* Will the United States be able to find some goal-scoring options up front for future World Cups?

The Bradley issue seems paramount among most fans of U.S. soccer.

Previously, reaching the second round would have been considered grounds for automatic renewal of the coach's contract. But expectations grew quickly after the U.S. not only won Group C over an underachieving England side, but finished unbeaten as well.

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, the man who will decide Bradley's future, evaluated the former three-time club coach in Major League Soccer as having done "a very good job."

But was it good enough?

"The team is capable of more," Gualti said. "The players know it. I think Bob knows it. At that level, we are disappointed we didn't get to play another 90 minutes, at least."

With Bradley under contract until the end of the year, Gulati promised he will take his time making a decision.

Former U.S. international defender Alexi Lalas, a commentator for U.S. television at the World Cup and who fired Bradley when Lalas was the club's general manager at the MetroStars five years ago, thought Bradley did some things very well in the World Cup, He also question some of Bradley's choices.

"It is a very difficult decision," he said. "This is not a situation you can say he did a good job or a bad job. If there is a change, Sunil Gulati must be thoughtful on where we are going and whether we can find someone who can take what Bob Bradley has done and it us to the proverbial next level.

"If there is a change, this represents an opportunity for Sunil to have somebody new and different, to have someone to bring in a fresh pair of eyes and idea to continue what Bob Bradley has done."

Domestically, potential candidates include former U.S. international midfielder Dominic Kinnear (54 international appearances), who has directed the Houston Dynamo to two MLS Cup titles, and Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, the only one to guide two different teams to MLS championships. Internationally, the name of former German international and national coach Juergen Klinsmann, who lives in the Los Angeles area and turned down the job in 2006, always surfaces.

It is not certain whether anyone of those mentioned wants the job or vice versa -- if Bradley does not return.

In leading the Americans to the top of its group, Bradley became somewhat a victim of his own success.

By finishing first, the United States had a much easier path to the semifinals against the likes of Ghana, Uruguay or South Korea instead of such traditional powers as Germany and Argentina.

"Where it is clearly not accomplished is, everyone associated with the program feels it was an opportunity missed -- a game we could have won and probably feel we should have won," Gulati said. "It was all in front of us. We started dreaming after the first round. Looking at the brackets and you start thinking about what is possible, and unfortunately we think about what could have been."

The United States chased the game throughout the first round, leading for a scant three minutes, and that was in injury time in the 1-0 win over Algeria. Bradley could not rectify the Americans' penchant for allowing early goals and requiring it to play from behind.

Conversely, he was able to rally the team in the second half, making for some of the most exciting first-round finishes in South Africa.

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July 1, 2010  11:57 AM ET

I think Bradley did a good job with the players he has, if England are not firing Capello then surely Bradley should be able to keep his job!

July 1, 2010  02:53 PM ET

Bradley did a great job. I think he has contributed a lot to the team and provided a lot of great opportunities, but to keep the momentum and progress going they need a new coach. Plain and simple.


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