Posted January 03, 2014

In opting for Stabaek job, Bob Bradley has grander visions than playing it safe

Bob Bradley, Grant Wahl, MLS, Stabaek, U.S. Soccer, Vancouver Whitecaps
Bob Bradley

Bob Bradley could have returned to MLS, but he has visions of blazing a path for American coaches in Europe. (Luc Gnago/Reuters)

Bob Bradley could have made a lot more money had he accepted the Vancouver Whitecaps coaching job instead of turning it down to take over at Norwegian club Stabæk on Friday.

So why did Bradley, 55, the former coach of the U.S., Egypt and three MLS teams, opt for a team that just got promoted from Norway’s second division and plays in a 7,000-seat stadium?

It wasn’t done as a slap at MLS and U.S. Soccer, though Bradley knows that some people from both organizations will view it that way. American soccer is still a relatively small world, and tensions linger from Bradley’s firing by U.S. Soccer in 2011 and the feeling among some MLS types that Bradley should have picked more MLS players for the 2010 U.S. World Cup squad.

But Bradley’s decision to go with Stabæk is all about one thing: The desire to blaze a trail for American soccer coaches in Europe and perhaps eventually become the first U.S. coach in one of the top European leagues.

The safe move for Bradley would have been to accept the Vancouver job, make more money, live in a fantastic North American city and come home to a league where he knows he could succeed.

But Bradley has already done that before. And he knew that if he came back to MLS, his chances of ever coaching a European club were almost nil. Offers to coach bottom-of-the-table Premier League teams didn’t come after Bradley’s solid work with the U.S. and Egypt, and so he finally chose Stabæk, a team that just returned to the Norwegian top flight and had an open position.

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For all the gains made by U.S. players in Europe over the last two decades, U.S. coaches have barely achieved anything over there. It’s remarkable that in the year 2014 Bradley is the first U.S. coach in the modern era ever to manage a European top-flight soccer team.

*(Brief aside: I can’t tell you how many of the world’s best soccer coaches, including José Mourinho, have told me they’ve read the books of U.S. sports coaches like Phil Jackson, John Wooden and Vince Lombardi. Wouldn’t at least some European soccer clubs be interested in hiring a coach from that very same U.S. sports culture?)*

And while Bradley doesn’t think the Norwegian league is necessarily better than MLS, he does view Norway as a better place to be if he wants a chance at bigger European jobs.

Just look at the news in the last week, where another coach from the Norwegian league, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, moved from Molde to Cardiff City in the Premier League. England manager Roy Hodgson also coached in Norway (with Viking) for one-and-a-half seasons as recently as 2005. With a dozen or so scouts from all over Europe at most Stabæk games, Bradley is making the calculation that he’ll be on the European radar screen more over there than in Vancouver, and it’s hard to argue with that.

It would be unfortunate if Bradley’s decision caused any resentment from MLS and U.S. Soccer. The fact is that Bradley feels deeply connected to American soccer and is rightly proud of his U.S. tenure and his MLS achievements, which include an MLS Cup and two U.S. Open Cup titles with Chicago, the start of the lone positive stretch in the history of Chivas USA and the smart drafting of U.S. talents in Chicago (Carlos Bocanegra), New York (Michael Bradley, Mike Magee, Ricardo Clark, Eddie Gaven, Jeff Parke) and Chivas USA (Sacha Kljestan, Jonathan Bornstein).

Can Bradley open up Europe for other American coaches? All I know is I can’t wait to follow his story over there. Right now, at least, the best place for Bradley to represent the U.S. game is in Europe — and perhaps in a few more high-profile destinations down the road.

17 comments
cashtext4all . com
cashtext4all . com

If he does well in norway, he'll definately get a job in the PL.

PaulPacent
PaulPacent

But he is not the only American ever to coach in Europe. In fact, he will not be the only American coaching in Europe currently.

Here are five other Yanks at the helm in the Old World.


Dennis Lukens, current, FC Krystal Kherson (Ukraine) –  Lukens, who was previously Head Coach of the defunct Boston Storm, the Bay Area Seals (A League), U-23 National Team of St Lucia assistant coach for the MISL's California Cougars, has been in charge of Krystal since September 2012. The club, based in the Black Sea port city of Kherson, plays in the the Ukrainian second division and took them from 14h place to 7th place. Lukens are largely unknown to Americans, which is perhaps why he's willing to wade into the comment section of an article about American coaches


David Wagner, current, Borussia Dortmund II (Germany) – Along with his former Schalke teammate Thomas Dooley, Wagner was one of the original German-Americans to join the US national team, earning eight caps between 1996 and 1998. He was hired in 2011 to helm Borussia Dortmund II, the reserve team of the Bundesliga powerhouse. They are currently in ninth place in the 3.Liga, Germany's third division.

Gregg Berhalter, 2011-13, Hammarby (Sweden) – The current Columbus Crew head coach and sporting director made a splash when he signed with Hammarby in December 2011, becoming the most prominent American head coach in Europe at the time. He spent two years trying to get the Swedish second-division side promoted. After a fourth-place finish in year one, the club sacked him midway through his second year, citing "not enough dividends in the offense."


Joe Enochs, 2011, Osnabruck (Germany) – For two glorious, stress-filled weeks, the former Sacramento State midfielder was interim manager for the club he represented more than 350 times as they fought – and survived – a relegation battle from the 2.Bundesliga, Germany's second division.   


Brent Goulet, 2004-08, SV Elversberg (Germany) – An ex-US international who once helped tiny Tennish Borussia Berlin reach the 2.Bundesliga in the early 1990s, Goulet later took the reins at Elversberg, where he had played at the end of his career, when the club was in the third tier of German soccer.


Tim Hankinson, 1991, UMF Tindastoll (Iceland) -- Years before he managed the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the Colorado Rapids in MLS, Hankinson spent one season in the Icelandic 2nd division. He brought in former US international Kevin Grimes -- currently the head coach at Cal -- but it didn't help an already struggling side: Tindastoll were relegated after going 1-16-1 and finishing in last place.

RickPotts
RickPotts

Does anybody feel the need to start an IV in that forehead vein of his???

RickPotts
RickPotts

Maybe he can start a Chivas style club with only American players in the Norwegian league....just sayin.  Good for Bob.  He's already done the MLS.  Kids are out of the house.  Go live a little.  Find a new adventure.

MarkPeckham
MarkPeckham

When I saw the stadium at his new club, I almost laughed. It looked very amateurish. However, I understand I think his vision And the article articulates that very well. He's trying to brand himself in Europe with the intention of proving himself and moving onto bigger and better things. Good luck, and a calculated risk on his behalf.

bserious
bserious

With every aspect of human life of course there's always somebody who doesn't like something, including things like ice cream and chocolate, but is there really a large contingent of American fans/officials who don't appreciate what Bradley is trying to do? I was one of those who wanted him gone at the end of his stint as the US coach, but I was a big fan of him with Egypt, and I'll be rooting for him here as well.  I just can't imagine there being a large portion of American soccer people who wouldn't appreciate an American coach trying to make headway into Europe, even if he has to do it by starting in a smaller country.

cgregor
cgregor

As an American coaching both professional and high school level players in Norway since 2004, Norway is just a stepping stone for both players and coaches.  I know the Stabæk team very well, a few years ago they won the league then were relegated due to economic hardship.  They have been promoted through using young, inexpensive players with a mix of a few veterans.  The challenge Bob will face will be keeping the team from being relegated again.  With his understanding of the game and experience, he may be able to keep them up.  The one positive aspect is that the league level of play has dropped off dramatically since the 2008 season.  The economy took a big hit and many companies withdrew their  sponsorship money.  Now that the economy has picked up, sponsorship still has not returned.  If he can do well at Stabæk, like Hodson had done at Viking, he will have the opportunity to move onto a more competitive league.  It will be interesting to see how the season plays out. I wish him luck.

DerekOsley
DerekOsley

Nice article.  MLS and US soccer execs can go fly a kite, if they have a problem with BB's choice.  Like father like son... these Bradleys want to prove themselves and be winners, not simply collect paychecks.  BB will either fail having at least tried, or else succeed and get US soccer more respect than he ever could have done by coaching Vancouver.

usamnt
usamnt

Great choice. Great article. I can't wait either. I don't think BB will go down as the best coach of the national team in history, but depends how he spends the next 10 years, he could go down as the best American coach in history.

Anthony Roque
Anthony Roque

I don't fully understand this choice on BB's part, but he's not getting any younger, so why not? But to refer to this team as top-flight is laughable. 

Davos1
Davos1

MLS is better than the Norwegian league. What hold American soccer back is idiots like you who think every crap hole in Europe is better than MLS because it is in Europe. MLS is better than most of the leagues in Europe.

nel71
nel71

Good for Mr. Bradley. Plus he'll be closer to his son than he would've been in Canada.

Davos1
Davos1

Which is way worse than MLS.