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Can Bob Bradley Pull The Strings?

Posted: 06/10/2010 9:29 am

After endless analysis of the US-England game, the basic fact is that Bob Bradley really doesn't have a bad tactical choice. It isn't about who starts, it's about in-game adjustments.

In the end, there are about 18 outfield players on the US team that I would be quite comfortable to see starting against England. Yes, I have my opinions (4-2-3-1! or Beasley on the left to deal with Lennon) but the important thing against England -- and throughout the tournament -- is not necessarily who Bradley chooses to start and where, but whether Bradley can make the right tactical adjustments within the game. This is because Bradley in this World Cup will have something that he has rarely had at his disposable -- options off the bench.

In the Confederations Cup last year, Bradley was hamstrung by a lack of good options off the bench. Against Brazil in the final when the game started to slip away, Bradley had few options off the bench that could effectively change a game or really make an impact. Part of his challenge over the last year has been to build a bench and depth and he has been able to do that with great effect. Two strikers got hot in Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez. Stuart Holden was a revelation in last summer's Gold Cup and Jose Torres had an exceptional season in Mexico.

Bradley now has options off the bench -- a player like Torres could replace Ricardo Clark, for instance, and completely change the US approach. Gomez can be thrown on late when we need a goal, Findley can be deployed to run at tiring defenders, and Beasley can be put on to add defensive cover.

The question then is will Bradley pull the strings at the right time? He has, I think, rightly been criticized at times for his in-game management, as he has at times seemed hesitant to change things around when the US is playing poorly. However, that being said, it should be noted that the US has frequently given up early goals and come from behind, and comeback victories owe quite a bit to a manager's in-game tactical tinkering.

I think that the person that has the most to gain against England is not any player, but Bob Bradley himself. Bradley's future with the US after the World Cup is a bit uncertain. With US fans longing for a high profile foreign manager and with Juergen Klinsmann breathing down his neck, Bradley knows that short of reaching the quarterfinals, his days maybe numbered. Therefore a masterful tactical performance against England, with all of England focused intently on the game, is a huge opportunity for Bradley to raise his profile. The build-up to the game has already seen him get great press in England and if he can tactically outsmart Fabio Capello there will be some rave reviews and it is quite conceivable that some English clubs, not necessarily Premier league, perhaps the division below, will show interest. And who knows, if Roy Hodgson moves to Liverpool, there would even be a job opening at Fulham.

 
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