BRADLEY BUILDS U.S. TALENT INTO BAND OF BROTHERS
RUSTENBURG — Bigname European coaches were considered when Bob Bradley became coach of the U.S. football team, but the veteran American mentor made the job his own and melded a squad in his own image.
The payoff for over three years of teambuilding has come at the World Cup, where the American band of brothers bounced back from a 2006 firstround exit and have booked a date with Ghana today in the round of 16.
Confidence shown in Bradley when he took the job for six months on an interim basis has paid off with a team devoted to one another, bonded as a group with more concern about playing a role than individual glory. “We believe in what Bob does,” U.S. playmaker Landon Donovan said. “It has taken a long time for some of us to wrap our heads around what Bob wanted from us. Now we are understanding why Bob put us through a lot of what he has.”
Through tournament after tournament, including a 2009 Confederations Cup finals run, U.S. players were evaluated, but also brought together to form a leadership core, building some into leaders, altering the approach of others.
“The mentality and fight in these guys is unbelievable,” said U.S. forward Jozy Altidore. “Sometimes, we want it too much.
“He’s right up there with the best coaches. He has earned a lot of respect from a lot of people.”
U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra has been at the core of a squad that rallied to draw against England and Slovenia and edged Algeria 10 to advance to the last 16 thanks to a Donovan goal in stoppage time.
“Guys want to play their heart out. Egos don’t get involved,” Bocanegra said. “Whoever scores, guys cheer them on. It’s about how the team performs.”
Altidore, the youngest U.S. player at 20, sees the bond in South Africa has come because family and friends are kept at a distance. “It sucks not seeing wives, girlfriends, families,” he said. “We see each other and we get close. It makes you want to fight for the guy next to you.”
Is this not true of every team? “I don’t think so,” Altidore said. “I’m lucky to experience this.” — SapaAFP.