Bob and Jurgen: A Tale of Two Managers

Bob Bradley, former USA coach

National team managers have a very unique job in the world of sports. They are basically judged by one event that comes around once every four years in the World Cup. For Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann, both have had the opportunity to lead the United States national team, while each have also coached another nation. Klinsmann with Germany, Bradley with Egypt. After the recent Gold Cup, some were calling for Klinsmann to be fired, which has led to comparisons to Bradley’s firing.

To review the current situation, we have to go back in time. Bob Bradley took over the US national team in late 2006 following a dismal showing at the World Cup. Bruce Arena’s squad never really looked up to the task and got destroyed in their group. Bradley’s hiring was considered a second choice back then, as many wanted a German with US connections named Jurgen Klinsmann to take the helm. The same Jurgen Klinsmann that had just coached a young German squad to 3rd place on home soil during the World Cup.

Either way, Bradley got the job and started out pretty well, despite not having any meaningful competition. A guest appearance at the Copa America wasn’t anything special, considering it came just a few weeks after Bradley won the Gold Cup. Qualifying went relatively well, and the squad finished a surprising 2nd in the Confederations Cup. A second choice squad got crushed in the 2009 Gold Cup final to Mexico that same year.

The 2010 World Cup was the measuring stick for Bradley’s tenure. The team did well, winning their group after some late game heroics by Landon Donovan. They advanced to play Ghana in the Round of 16, where they lost. Perhaps because it was the same Ghana side that knocked them out 4 years prior, this loss seemed to carry some extra weight. The Cup overall was deemed a success, and Bradley received an extension, but some were not happy. This sentiment came to a head the next summer, when Bradley’s squad were beaten in the finals of the 2011 Gold Cup by Mexico 4-2. He was fired shortly thereafter, leading to Klinsmann’s hiring.

Klinsmann at 2015 Gold Cup

AP Images

The Klinsmann era was going relatively well, including the 2013 Gold Cup victory, until the decision to leave Landon Donovan off of the World Cup roster. In the incredibly nostalgic United States, that move has not been easily forgotten. We all know what happened in the 2014 World Cup, with Julian Green’s emergence and Tim Howard’s insane performance.

Although it is seen in a different light, the net results from each manager was the same. A victory in the Gold Cup, a Round of 16 exit in the World Cup. Both managers failed to win the proceeding Gold Cup, with Bradley’s squad losing in the finals, while Klinsmann’s bagged 4th place. On a surface level, it is easy to see why some would call for Klinsmann’s head, considering the treatment his predecessor got. So far, Klinsmann is still on board, with an extension through the 2018 World Cup in tow.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that Bradley hadn’t landed on his feet. He took the Egyptian national job team, doing a great job during a time of intense political struggle. They got the worst possible draw in the final stage of qualifying, despite dominating otherwise. The FIFA rankings probably cost the nation a spot in the 2014 World Cup.

From there, he was hired by a small club in Norway by the name of Stabaek. In his first season, he took the perennial cellar dweller to the middle of the table, well clear of the relegation zone. This season he is pulling off a minor miracle, taking the club to 2nd place in the league almost 2/3rds of the way through the season. People are starting to take notice of his rise, and there are whispers that larger clubs in prestigious leagues have their eye on him. For an American, he is doing to groundbreaking work in the management game.

Jurgen Klinsmann went in a somewhat different direction. His first gig as a manager was for the German National Team. After his playing days, he moved to America, where he adopted the training and fitness techniques from some of the leading American sports trainers. The German media made fun of this at first, but began seeing these methods work, crediting Klinsmann with setting forth a new generation. After his stint with the national team, he stuck around to coach Bayern Munich for a year. The club scene was not as receptive to his coaching style, and they parted ways. He returned to America where his wife and kids live in California. Then in 2011, he began the journey as the United States National Team coach.

These are two very different men, who walked in the same shoes during separate times. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the issue, but there are folks on both sides who make compelling points. As Russia 2018 looms nearer, we all hope that the US can do whatever they need to in order to progress further in the tournament than ever before.


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About the author: Dominic Habjan


I am a contributor to SoccerPro’s blogs, and truly enjoy writing about the World’s Game. I support Sporting KC, US National Team, and Slovenian National Team. I follow the Premier League but don’t necessarily have a favorite club. I am an avid sports fan, but prefer college to professional leagues in every sport with exception to soccer. I love the Mizzou Tigers, KC Royals, and KC Chiefs. Outside sports I enjoy movies, music, and musical theatre.



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