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Would Atlanta United be the “right opportunity” for Bob Bradley?

Former U.S. manager said he would consider a return to MLS

United States v Spain Photo by Gail Oskin/Getty Images

Over the weekend, Bob Bradley made this statement on the Soccer Today podcast, hosted by ESPN’s Marc Stein and Steve Davis:

As I told you, I stay very connected with what’s happening there. … I have strong ideas. If the right situation came up, where those kind of ideas can be put into action, then it’s something I’d think about. But I’m also of course motivated to continue to prove myself in Europe.

Bob Bradley was involved in Major League Soccer from the very beginning, as an assistant with Bruce Arena at D.C. United. He went on to become the first manager of the Chicago Fire in 1998, leading them to the double of MLS Cup and the U.S. Open Cup in their inaugural season. He went on to win another U.S. Open Cup with the Fire before stints with MetroStars and Chivas USA.

He won 43 of 80 games with the U.S. men’s national team between December 2006 through July 2011. He won a CONCACAF Gold Cup, achieved a runner-up finish at the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2009, and won the team’s group at the 2010 FIFA World Cup before falling to Ghana in extra time in the Round of 16.

Since his dismissal from the national team, Bradley has taken the road less traveled by an American manager. He nearly took Egypt to their first World Cup since 1990 in spite of incredible adversity. He became the first American manager in a European top flight at Stabæk in Norway, leading them to Europa League qualification. Bradley is now at Le Havre in France’s Ligue 2, barely missing out on promotion last season.

Since Atlanta United was announced, Bob Bradley has been my top choice for the club’s inaugural manager. He would have the ideal mix of knowledge of the specific challenges that MLS managers face combined with an international approach to building a club. There are few potential managers out there that would be able to compete with Bradley’s resume.

Bradley said this when discussing an ideal opportunity for him:

“I still think about clubs that have vision, clubs that want to do it right, where there’s a real identity, where there’s a connection with the city, where there’s a connection between the academy and the first team, where you make sure that the way that players are trained from the time that they’re young fits in with how they’re going to be asked to play when they’re older.”

Would he be interested in building that from scratch in Atlanta?

There are connections that would make lots of sense for him to return to MLS with Atlanta United. Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra was Bradley’s primary captain during their time together with the U.S. national team. The description of his vision of a cohesive club is very similar to what Bocanegra and the rest of Atlanta’s front office has said about what they are building here. It seems like he would fit into what Atlanta has in mind.

I thought that after leaving Stabæk, he might be ready to return to the U.S. I pretty much ruled him out after he came so close to promotion with Le Havre last season, figuring that he has unfinished business there. However, when his name started to get kicked around for different opportunities this summer, I hoped that one of those would be the Atlanta United job.

I’ve always felt that Bob Bradley is vastly underrated as a manager. He took the U.S. to another level after arriving in 2006, a level that I’m not sure has been reached since his dismissal. His work overseas is extremely strong and shows that he is continually learning and applying new ideas to the job.

He’s is more respected overseas than he is in the U.S. FourFourTwo placed him at #23 on their 2016 ranking of the best managers in the world. That was ahead of such notable names as Jorge Sampaoli, Didier Deschamps, and Manuel Pellegrini. It was also the highest place in the ranking for an American.

What he would bring to the job as a person is also incredibly important. Darren Eales said this back in March 2015 when talking about the players Atlanta United would target:

“What we want is pioneers. We want that type of player who is looking for a challenge, who’s going to embrace playing in America, knows it’s a growing league and it’s not quite there yet but it’s getting there. We want those sorts of engaged players who are in effect pioneers, wanting to come to this city to make a mark.”

Tell me if that doesn’t describe Bob Bradley’s career perfectly. He would embrace the challenge of launching this club with the same enthusiasm, incredible work ethic, and pioneer spirit that he took to Egypt. What Bradley did in Egypt, both on and off the field, shows his character. When it would have been easy to leave, Bradley stayed and nearly took his team to the World Cup while the domestic league was suspended.

His time in Egypt showed that he wouldn’t back down from a challenge, but that was already known. He showed that against a top ranked Spanish national team at the Confederations Cup, qualifying Stabæk for the Europa League, and in nearly pushing Le Havre on the final day of the Ligue 2 season into a promotion spot.

Bradley qualified his comments on Soccer Today with the statement that he still wants to prove himself in Europe, which makes his arrival in Atlanta a long shot. However, he did leave the door open to a possibility. I hope Atlanta United has knocked on that door and been invited in for a chat.