BRADLEY COUNTING ON AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
As the United States national team gets ready to face England on Saturday in one of the most anticipated games in US soccer history, head coach Bob Bradley believes his squad will be fully prepared for the epic showdown.
One of the main reasons that Bradley feels the US team will be ready for the tournament is their knowledge gained from the experience of playing in numerous tournaments over the course of the last cycle.
In tournaments such as the Confederations Cup, Copa America, two Gold Cups and the Olympics, the players have been tested and know what to expect.
"There's a core of players that have been through all those different experiences." Bradley explained. "From that, I think our leadership is strong, our ability to use those experiences–good ones, bad ones, hard moments in the game, knowing how to stick together– we understand that when we play as a team and when everyone is committed the right way, we can play with top teams."
Bradley also thinks that the team has picked up valuable experience that has taught them how to mentally prepare for group stage tournaments where the first game's result does not guarantee either success or failure in the competition.
"As far as the result of the first game, we have a good understanding about the way it works in the first round, with three matches determining who moves on," Bradley continued. "Our ability to maneuver through those games and those situations is something that we've had experience with. On that end, the leadership that I referred to comes in to play."
Bradley remains very unspecific in discussing his ideas for the match against England. There are still some different lineups and formations that are available to him and Bradley did not tip his hand to the media when discussing it.
It is unlikely that anyone other than the coaching staff will know the lineup until an hour before kickoff.
"Typically we have an idea of what the lineup might be," Bradley said of his game plan. "But then there is always a part as you move through a week and prepare for the game, you keep alive different possibilities, different discussions, and then ultimately, the process works. Again, we have a great staff. I'd like to make sure that all of them have a say. Ultimately, I take in of the opinions and gauge some of the players as well and make the decision."
Bradley's counterpart on Saturday will be England's legendary head coach, Fabio Capello who has coached many high profile clubs including Real Madrid, Juventus, Roma and AC Milan.
Bradley has watched Capello and comes into Saturday with a healthy amount of respect for the 63 year old from San Canzian d'Isonzo, Italy.
"I watched AC Milan a great deal during their great years when Arrigo Sacchi and Capello took over," Bradley recalled. "That included taking a college team from Princeton University over there at one point. We played against the primavera and we saw Milan-Sampdoria and the derby. I've certainly seen his work over the years, whether it was with Milan, Real Madrid, now with England and with Juventus. His career speaks for itself."
Bradley has said that he has learned a lot from watching coaches such as Capello who typically work at high profile clubs and he admires how these lead men can set the tone throughout the entire club.
"What you see is that there are different ways to be successful," Bradley said of the effect of top coaches at a club. "Yet, at the same time when you have a chance to spend time with them you appreciate their willingness to talk about what goes on inside their club. You get a sense that often times the environment on the inside of the club has a lot to do with the personality of the [coach] in that respect. So yeah, I learn a little bit every time I have the chance to see how these people work."
Bradley has gotten to know Capello a little bit over the years and has learned a great deal from watching him. Most importantly, he has observed how Capello has been flexible in his approaches to building a team in order to best capture the total skill possessed by the players available.
"For me, the most impressive thing when you look at his career is the way he has at times adjusted to the different teams and talents," Bradley said of what he has learned from the current English coach. "Capello's teams have been all about the 4-4-2, all about pressing. I remember then years later when he was at Roma, it became more of a 3-4-1-2, and the way the system worked with a player like Cafu on one side and his ability to tweak things.
"His coaching advice was always something along the lines of ‘when you make wine the grapes are not always the same.'" Bradley continued. "The first few times he said that to me I thought he was talking about wine. Since then, I've thought about it, I realized he was trying to tell me about [soccer]."
While Bradley knows that Capello's team will be mentally and tactically very well prepared for Saturday's contest, he remains confident in his own team's ability to achieve a result. He feels that his young team has been well tested over the last four years and will know what to expect from a top tier team like England.
"Players have had different moments in their careers when they have been tested in those ways," Bradley concluded. "It might have been a match with the national team. It might have been experiences they had with their club teams. I think the fact that we have players like Landon who have been in big games who have played in the World Cup, have tasted success. That gives our team a level of experience that helps in big games."