Looking to 2014

Bradley, US put past behind them

Bob Bradley

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Getty Images


BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- U.S. coach Bob Bradley would rather do his job than talk about the intrigue surrounding it.

Bradley agreed to a second four-year stint with the U.S. Soccer Federation in late August. From what Juergen Klinsmann has said, however, the agreement came after his monthlong talks with the federation broke down. U.S. Soccer has never confirmed the negotiations, but Klinsmann said they broke off because the federation wouldn't put his authority in writing.

Klinsmann also held talks with USSF president Sunil Gulati in 2006, but ended them when he wasn't guaranteed access to top Major League Soccer players for both the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa America the following year.

"No, I don't have any thoughts" on it, Bradley said Monday after the first training session for Saturday's game against Poland.

Instead, Bradley is looking ahead to the 2014 World Cup.

The Americans reached the knockout stage in South Africa, losing to Ghana 2-1 in overtime in the second round. Though the U.S. won't begin qualifying for Brazil until late next year, at the earliest, exhibitions like Saturday's against Poland or one Tuesday against Colombia in Chester, Pa., allow Bradley and his staff to begin setting the tone for the next four years.

Thirteen of the 20 players on the roster were in South Africa, including veterans Carlos BocanegraClint DempseySteve Cherundolo and Tim Howard. But Bradley also brought in some new faces, including Jermaine Jones and Eric Lichaj.

Jones grew up in Germany, but has an American father and said last year he wanted to play for the United States. The midfielder missed out on the World Cup because of a shin injury, making this his first time with the U.S. team.

Lichaj, who left the University of North Carolina for England's Aston Villa in 2007, was included in the U.S. training camp as a guest ahead of World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Honduras last year.

"There's always the focus on the next World Cup, and trying to have an idea how to project what the team might be. But we also recognize the importance of the Gold Cup next year," Bradley said. "So we also think now about how can we, following the World Cup, look hard at where we are and make sure we are preparing the right group for the Gold Cup."

The CONCACAF Gold Cup will be played from June 5-25, and winning it in 2007 gave the Americans a huge advantage in their preparation for South Africa. The Gold Cup winner gets a spot at the Confederations Cup along with the reigning World Cup, European and South American champions, and the Americans upset Spain on their way to their first final at a major FIFA men's outdoor tournament.

The Americans fell to Brazil after taking a 2-0 lead at halftime.

"We have a nucleus of players that now have been part of teams the last few years, and we feel good about foundation we built," Bradley said. "When players go away to their club teams, we remind them always that we can pick up on where we left off. This is especially true after the World Cup because the soccer world continues to move. We have new goals, short-term like the Gold Cup and then long term for 2014."

As co-host with Ukraine, Poland has a guaranteed spot at the 2012 European Championship and doesn't have to go through the grueling qualifying rounds. But Poland failed to qualify for South Africa, and exhibitions like the one against the United States give the team vital experience ahead of Euros.

The U.S. has won seven of its 16 matches against Poland, including three of the last four.

"With the World Cup being four years away, it doesn't take anything away from any national team games," Stuart Holden said. "We know it's important to start now to start building toward the future and make sure we continue the work that we did and, how well we did in the World Cup, we have to continue that. We can't let ourselves slip and take a step backwards. We've got to keep pushing forward."

 

Notes

Dempsey was sporting a black eye after being manhandled in Fulham's 1-1 draw at West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday. Dempsey took an elbow to the face in an aerial challenge with West Ham defender Manuel da Costa. Dempsey scored his second Premier League goal this season and third in all competitions.