Bradley’s back

After much consideration, I hereby proclaim my official analysis of U.S. Soccer’s decision to extend the contract of men’s national team coach Bob Bradley:

Ahem …

Worry about the players, not the coach. There’s too much focus on the coach, and Bradley has proven himself capable of shrugging off that attention and not letting it disrupt the team.

Here ends my official analysis of U.S. Soccer’s decision to extend the contract of men’s national team coach Bob Bradley.

Book review: ‘Chasing the Game’

I’m thrilled to see two books on American soccer history being released in the same month. I’m absolutely biased in saying that, of course, because one of them is mine.

The other is Filip Bondy’s look at the U.S. men’s national team, Chasing the Game, which weaves recent and ancient history to tell the story of the team as it heads into the World Cup.

Bondy uses the same narrative device Jere Longman used in The Girls of Summer, flipping back and forth from chapter to chapter between the main story and background pieces on a particular player or some piece of history. It can be a little hard to follow, especially if you put the book down for a few days and come back to it, but it’s more interesting than giving a few chapters on history and then getting into the 2008-09 qualifying campaign.

Adam Spangler has taken Bondy to task for a few bits of questionable analysis. Such is the subjective nature of a sport that can’t be easily quantified in stats, though some news junkies may also disagree with his depiction of the Honduran political crisis of 2009. (Yes, it’s relevant to his story.)

Spangler also points out something else that brings us to the Great Dilemma of the Soccer Writer in Mainstream Media (GDSWMSM?): Am I writing for soccer fans, a more general audience or some mix of the two? Those of us who have been compelled to write an explanation of the U.S. Open Cup every time it’s mentioned in passing can empathize.

Bondy splits the difference, and it’s hard to argue with that. Heading into a World Cup, fans need different levels of edumacating. Some fans have no idea about the 1950 USA-England game or the intricacies of World Cup qualification. Some already know Landon Donovan’s and Walter Bahr’s biographies in detail.

What I always tried at USA TODAY was to include some detail, some anecdote or some quote that was unique. Bondy offers plenty of that. He fleshes out our image of U.S. coach Bob Bradley, showing him to be even more detail-obsessed than any of us imagined. For each qualifying game and each player described in detail, he has something most people didn’t know or hadn’t considered.

And Bondy is nothing if not thorough. He saw the qualifiers, and he interviewed the key participants. He goes back in history and talks with 1950 World Cup star Walter Bahr about the USA-England matchup of that year and this year. As U.S. World Cup histories go, he has a word from everyone except Bert Patenaude, who passed away 35 years ago.

Having been through the publishing process, I’m impressed that the book has come together so quickly. Six months before the review copy arrived, we weren’t even sure if the USA would make the trip to South Africa. In the book world, particularly outside the major publishing houses, six months is a tight deadline.

If the book seems rushed, though, it’s still worth the effort. It’s a great way to relive the ups and downs of qualifying while learning a bit more about what happened.

I’m again a little biased in the sense that I enjoyed reading about a few things I had witnessed first-hand, particularly the ad-hoc viewing party in which several reporters gathered around Sunil Gulati’s laptop in a Beijing sports bar to watch the USA win in Guatemala. But a lot of fans have their own memories that they’ll enjoy revisiting. And if you don’t remember anything that was written here, you need to read this book before June 12.

The World Cup 30

ESPNewsreallyquicklygavethe30-manpreliminaryUSroster for the World Cup and talked to U.S. coach Bob Bradley about it.

It’ll be cut to 23. If someone’s injured, the roster can yet be changed.

Notes:

– No fourth goalkeeper. Not really a risk in terms of injuries, since Bradley could always grab an MLS keeper if needed. But still a slight risk. What if Brad Guzan, who hasn’t played much recently, comes into camp and isn’t in top form?

– No Charlie Davies. Bob Bradley said he was not given a “full medical clearance” from his club. Second opinion from American doctor wouldn’t hurt, but Bradley might know more than we do. On the flip side, Bradley said Milan has been including Oguchi Onyewu in preliminary squads and has given indications that he’s ready.

– Eddie Johnson gets a spot from his form with Aris in Greece. Freddy Adu does not. I’d love to hear Bradley’s reasoning on this.

– DaMarcus Beasley gets a shot in camp to show his fitness and form.

– Aside from Beasley, World Cup veterans didn’t get a break. Not Frankie Hejduk, who had some terrific performances in qualifying early last year but had a drop in form. Not Jimmy Conrad.

Updating my list from yesterday:

LOCKS for final 23
Tim Howard, GK
Brad Guzan, GK
Marcus Hahnemann, GK
Carlos Bocanegra, D
Michael Bradley, M
Maurice Edu, M
Landon Donovan, M/F
Clint Dempsey, M/F
Jozy Altidore, F

NEAR-LOCKS for final 23 (fitness questions)
Oguchi Onyewu, D
Jay DeMerit, D
Stuart Holden, M
Charlie Davies, F

NEAR-LOCKS for final 23 (form questions)
Jonathan Spector, D
Steve Cherundolo, D
Jonathan Bornstein, D – Chang omits
Ricardo Clark, M
Benny Feilhaber, M
Jose Francisco Torres, M

That’s 19 18 who are likely bound for South Africa unless their fitness or form fails them in camp.

THE BUBBLE – listed with writers backing them for final 23
Frankie Hejduk, D – Wahl
Clarence Goodson, D – Wahl, Davis
Edgar Castillo, D – Mravic,
Chad Marshall, D – Mravic
Heath Pearce, D/M
Alejandro Bedoya, M – on 4 of 5 SI picks for final 23
Sacha Kljestan, M – Davis
DaMarcus Beasley, M – Dohrmann
Robbie Rogers, M – Dohrmann
Bobby Convey, M
Brian Ching, F – Wahl, Mravic, Chang
Herculez Gomez, F – Wahl, Chang
Edson Buddle, F – Davis, Mravic
Eddie Johnson, F – Davis
Brian McBride, F – Davis, despite his retirement from international play
Robbie Findley, F
Nick Rimando, GK

SHOULD BE IN CAMP BUT WON’T BE

  • Jimmy Conrad, D
  • Freddy Adu, M/F