Bob Bradley was officially unveiled as the new coach of Norwegian soccer club Stabaek on Friday. It makes the 55-year-old the first American to coach in a European first division.
There are a couple ways to look at this news.
On the one hand, after a fairly successful stint coaching the Egyptian National Team against the backdrop of revolutionary domestic strife you’d think Bradley would have gotten more job offers beyond a small, promoted club in Norway. Take away the thrashing by Ghana in the first stage of the African World Cup playoffs and Bradley was very good in charge of the Pharoahs, leading them to a 24-7-5 record — good enough for a 66 percent winning percentage.
Yes, coaching a national team in African is much different than running a club team but the results speak for themselves. Beyond that Bradley helped develop players such as Mohammed Salah, who appears bound for a big-money transfer to Liverpool within the next couple weeks. It’s hard to think of a more challenging set of circumstances than what Bradley had to deal with, especially after the Egyptian domestic league was shut down following the Port Said riot.
Still, Bradley faced a stigma — it’s hard to tell how big — about American coaches and their perceived shortcomings. His only other concrete offered appeared to come from the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS. Clubs are likely leery about handing over the coaching reigns to a foreign coach who never played at a high level, regardless of his success with the U.S. National Team or Egypt.
Then again, look at the Premier League in England, which likes to recycle many of the same managerial candidates over and over again. Wouldn’t Bradley — an organized, detail-oriented — coach be useful, or at least provide some leadership and stability? Given how egomaniac owners like Cardiff City put unrealistic expectations on managers, perhaps Bradley is in a good spot, coaching in the relative peace and quiet Norway affords.
Bradley makes history on Friday taking the Stabaek appointment, however it will likely take a former player with an impressive playing resume — think Brad Friedel — to be the first American to coach a club in a big-time European league. Either way, although some fans might have soured on Bradley in the wake of the U.S. National Team’s 2010 World Cup loss to Ghana, he’s proven an excellent ambassador for American soccer.
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