JOHANNESBURG – Bob Bradley’s status as US National Team coach likely won’t be decided for another two weeks or so, but USSF president Sunil Gulati said on Monday that he is “disappointed” in the team’s Round of 16 exit from the 2010 World Cup.
Speaking with a group of reporters, Gulati explained that while he is proud of Bradley’s accomplishments in his three-and-a-half years as US head coach, he feels the team failed to grasp a golden opportunity to progress further in the tournament in falling to Ghana 2-1 in extra time last weekend.
Should the US have won that game, they had what Gulati considers a clear path to the semifinals of the World Cup for the first time since 1930, thanks to a straightforward bracket that would have pitted the US against Uruguay in the quarterfinals.
“It was all in front of us, is the best way of putting it,” Gulati said. “We started dreaming after the first round. Thinking about what is possible and unfortunately, we think about what could have been.”
And that disappointment wasn’t just in on-field achievement, Gulati said.
“The missed opportunity was partly a chance to get to the quarters and a matchup with Uruguay,” said Gulati, “but it’s also a missed opportunity to stay in American eyes for another four, five, six days, maybe 10 days, when interest is at an all-time high.”
The Ghana match was watched by 14.9 million viewers on ESPN, the network said, marking the most-watched men’s World Cup game in American history. According to Gulati, with the Spanish-language broadcast figures from Univisión, total viewership for the game exceeded 17 million in the US.
Gulati said he wanted to begin conversations with Bradley on Monday before the coach departed South Africa, but travel arrangements were such that it was more likely those talks would begin back in the US in two weeks’ time. The US have a friendly scheduled against Brazil at New Meadowlands Stadium on Aug. 10.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Gulati was leaning toward releasing Bradley from his contract, which expires at the end of the year. But he did acknowledge it was possible Bradley may decide to step down to pursue another coaching job, something Bradley hinted at on Sunday.
Should the USSF and Bradley decide to go in different directions – a distinct possibility considering the circumstances – Gulati said the federation would not wait as long as it did to find a new coach as it did in 2006, when Bruce Arena’s replacement wasn’t named until December.
Bradley was the fallback choice for the US after German legend Jürgen Klinsmann withdrew his name from consideration. Gulati said Monday that he isn’t opposed to hiring a foreign coach, but acknowledged that any candidate must have a solid knowledge of the US system, its players and, ideally, Major League Soccer.
Interestingly, Gulati also revealed that he and Bradley held discussions with Fabio Capello in the months before the Italian was named coach of the English national team. Those talks had been over a number of roles, such as a technical-director position or involvement in the US’ youth-team system. Ultimately, Capello took the job with the English FA in December 2007.
Gulati was careful Monday not to put all of the US’ failings on the players, though he did express disappointment with some of them, without naming names. But he did say the system needs to improve to the point where higher-quality players are cultivated by the USSF academy set-up, as well as MLS.
On the World Cup bidding front, Gulati said that the US’ proposal to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup has been well-received – especially thanks to the involvement of former President Bill Clinton, who has been in South Africa for the US’ final two games – but that he doesn’t expect to hear any ultimate feedback from FIFA until the hosts are named in December.