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Sunil Gulati and Bob Bradley Conference Call Transcription

Conference Call Transcription
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati and U.S. Men's National Team head coach Bob Bradley
Aug. 31, 2010

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati
“Usually the periods after World Cups are a period of down time for us. That hasn’t been the case after this World Cup with a lot of things going on related to the national team program, related to the World Cup Bid and so on. It’s with great pleasure today that we can talk about Bob Bradley’s re-appointment as the national team coach. We get a chance to build on everything that’s happened over the last four years and build on, frankly, our experience and performance at the World Cup. I think Bob’s done a great job of putting a group of players together and not just at the World Cup, in developing that group over three and a half to four years and we’re looking forward to building on that. His record speaks for itself, with the level of competition that we’ve had over the last four years, I haven’t been through the specific FIFA rankings, I think it’s probably tougher than we’ve had anywhere in our history. That’s because of playing in Copa America, playing in the Confederations Cup, also because of a lot of exhibition and friendly games that we’ve played in Europe. We thought that was a deficiency early on and we decided to go out and do that. Obviously your record is different when you’re playing at home or when you’re playing abroad against those top teams, but we’ve played Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Holland and the list goes on. I’m very pleased that Bob [Bradley] and I have been able to work out an extension. We look forward to, not only the next four years, but these upcoming games in October and everything else that’s going on in American soccer these days. As most of you know, we have the FIFA Inspectors here next week, so that’s another highlight on our schedule.”

On what was the most decisive factor in bringing Bob Bradley back:
“Bob and I met the day the team was leaving South Africa. We talked about a little bit of a timetable. He, at that time said, we don’t have a decision right away then he’d like the ability to explore alternatives. He stated clearly that he thinks coaching in Europe at some point would be a challenge that he’d like. We had no problem with that. What was the most decisive factor was experience, the record over the last four years, in games that mattered especially. We had to weigh that against something that Bob and I had spent a lot of time talking about, which is this issue of eight years and whether things might get stale. We’re familiar with the statistics about first and second cycles for coaches. I’ll leave aside any statistical biases in those, but in the end, I came to the conclusion that the experience and the record, the work over the last four years, overcame any issues about staleness, that we could overcome that. Bob and I talked about that a lot and we’re in agreement on that.”

On whether he talked to Juergen Klinsmann about the coaching position:
“We’re here to talk about Bob’s appointment as national team coach. I’m not going to talk about any conversations that we may or may not have had with any other candidate. We are going to talk strictly about our national team coach. We’ve discussed the reasons we re-appointed Bob. That’s all we’re going to be talking about today.”

On the concern of things going stale with a coach going from a four-year cycle to a probably eight-year cycle:
“That’s been a central issue and we’ve discussed that a lot. I stated at the end of the World Cup, we wanted to have some time to reflect, talk to people, that includes talking to players, talking to the staff, and that’s part of a debrief whether we announce the day before the World Cup starts that our coach is continuing, then you’re not talking about the coach but about all those other things. Unlike most other countries around the world that have coaches that get extended, we expect our coaches to finish cycles. It’s been a long time that we haven’t had a coach that’s completed a World Cup cycle. So it’s not a question of four or five or six years, it’s a question of eight years. That was an issue. We’ve talked about it and I think we’ve addressed it. As I said, I’m familiar with the statistics about the performance of coaches in the second World Cup they’re in, even though very rarely is it eight years in Europe, it’s generally six if they’re in two World Cup cycles. The obvious statistical bias is that if you’re extended, you very likely did well at the first World Cup and there’s not much room to go from there. We’ve talked about that. I think Bob is aware of that concern and I think we can manage that. We’re not going to look at simply the last cycle of the U.S. team. Teams do well and teams go down, it’s not just the coach. Italy and France would attest to that after having been in the final. And the progress that we’re going to have is not going to be from every World Cup. We recognize all that but I think we put ourselves in the best possible position to continue the growth we’ve had in reappointing Bob.”

On whether he still believes the U.S. did not meet expectations at the World Cup:
“I believe there were three sets of comments that were all related. One was about mixed results, two was about disappointment at the final result and that meant the Ghana game, and expectations. The expectations change even as you go through a tournament. So if you’re talking about looking out at the tournament or if we started, that changes when you win the game against Algeria and have the country paying attention. So, the disappointment part, as I stated then, was not in the team or Bob’s efforts or winning the group, obviously, the disappointment was that we all, always want one more game. So, at that level, 31 teams would have liked to have done more at the last World Cup. With a little time to reflect, more than a day or two, you look back and that was a good World Cup experience. That hasn’t changed my view that we all would have wanted another game or two. Bob agrees with that; we’ve talked about it. So the disappointment comes from being in a situation where we had a chance to advance. It’s a little bit strange because if we had finished second in the group, played Germany and lost in overtime 2-1, my guess is we would have all felt differently even though the performance for the final outcome would have been the same except we wouldn’t have won the group. The reaction back in the U.S. was fantastic for the team. So that part has been terrific. Bob and I left the office last night after meeting to get a cup of coffee and I was more than a little bit surprised that within 200 meters, three people on the street stopped Bob, recognized him, thanked him for the World Cup performance, including the young man at Starbucks who wanted to talk about Aston Villa, talk about the performance of the individual games. It was extraordinary. I think the reaction is a positive. Some of my disappointment was the immediate loss, but looking back, I think the team did well. We all think we could have gone further.”

On when he made the decision:
“Bob and I talked very early on Monday morning and I think it was very clear from that call that we were going to try to get an economic deal done. He then flew to New York and we got it done very quickly.”

On making the coaching decision following a period of time after the World Cup:
“I made it clear after the World Cup that we were going to take some time to assess the situation, reassess it and talk to people, primarily to players and people around the team. We're never in the same situation as countries around the world; our coaching contracts have traditionally run to the end of the year, as is the case with Bob's. There are a couple reasons for that. We don't want our coaches to be in a situation where they have to find a job the next day [after a tournament] and secondly, some of their potential opportunities would be in a league [MLS] that plays on a different season [than leagues around the world]. From our perspective this gives us some time to reflect and the Federation does not have to rush. From the coach's perspective, it doesn't put them under the same pressure employment-wise.”

On the intrinsic qualities an American coach brings to the U.S. Men's National Team:
“Do I think there are some natural advantages to having a coach who understands the American system? The answer is yes. That does not mean there aren't also advantages to having a coach who has coached in the Premier League, or Serie A or two World Cups or whatever else it might be. Different candidates bring different attributes. I don't think there's any doubt that having knowledge of the American setup is a plus. I said that four years ago and I think that's the case now. That doesn't mean we wouldn't consider an international coach, it just means they'd have a different set of strengths. In this particular area it would likely be a weakness since they would not have the same experience here [in the United States].”

On the timing of a coaching appointment as it relates to the visit of the FIFA inspection group:
“The timing wasn't related to the visit of the inspection group for the World Cup bid. We always wanted to get this done as soon as we could, but with the reflection I referred to [earlier]. My hope was we could get it done by September 1st, and we just managed to, though it wasn't tied to the visit of the inspection group. Having said that I'm glad we got the manner settled in a positive way and can now focus on this visit next week, which is a very important one for our World Cup bid.”

On the decision to renew Bob Bradley’s contract for four more years:
“There are two things. We talked about it a lot, but in other places there are intermediate competitions that are often linked to contracts. In Europe, it is the European Championship and in South America there is the Copa America. That’s one part of it. Two is that we’ve been fortunate in our history, in the last 20 years at least, we’ve had coaches who are able to complete cycles. Obviously, if you can’t complete one cycle you’re not going to go eight years. We’ve had more stability and I think that’s a positive. We’ve had a lot of discussions on the positives and some of the potential freshness issues that have been discussed and we think all the positives greatly outweigh any of our other concerns, including the positive that we have a coach who has coached 70-plus games internationally. That is experience that Bob didn’t have four years ago and that’s clearly a plus for us. We think we’ve made the best possible decision.”

On what was the catalyst for deciding at this time:
“We wanted to bring the process to a conclusion as quickly as we could and it happened this week. All of these discussions have been going on, we’ve been talking to players throughout. We spoke yesterday morning very early and made the final decision.”

On the importance of winning the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup:
“We’ve all understood the importance of playing in the Confederations Cup and you can’t do that without winning the Gold Cup. It’s our regional championship so it is absolutely the top priority over the next 12 months, it will be played next summer. Bob and his staff will build a program around it. MLS has been very supportive. As was the case four years ago, that was our priority in the first summer. We won that and played into the Confederations Cup and had the successful run. So, Gold Cup is absolutely the top priority.”

U.S. MNT head coach Bob Bradley
“First, for me, I’m very, very excited to continue in the role as the head coach of the United States’ Men’s National Team. I certainly believe that the work that went into the past four years, the experiences that we’ve had will really work for us as we put once cycle behind us and begin the process of the next four years. It’s always a good thing to look hard at what’s taken place, really do inventory, the things that we think along the way that were done well, the things that we can continue to improve upon and now put all of those different experiences into a good plan and a vision that will, I believe, take us further in the next four years.”

On how much his interest in pursuing coaching opportunities overseas was a factor in his decision:
“From my standpoint, I said many times that the period following the World Cup it was necessary for both sides to have time to assess things, assess opportunities. For sure, the opportunity to coach in Europe at some point is something that I would really enjoy, but at the same time the honor of coaching our national team and continuing the work of the last four years, was and will always be the most important work. In that regard, I think it took time on both sides. The timing of things, each side has sort of gone a separate path where looking at the different things and having some discussions and then, eventually, getting to the point of a decision. I’m very excited that it has worked out the way it has.”

On anything specific he plans to do to avoid things going stale:
“I think that around the coaching world, not only in soccer, the ability as a coach to continue every day, every year, to continue to challenge your players the right way, to know how in some moments to re-energize yourselves, refocus yourself and in some ways, re-invent yourself. Obviously, it’s been noted at times where I’ve said I’ve been lucky to spend some time at Manchester United. And when I see someone like Sir Alex Ferguson, how he continues to know how to keep his environment fresh and sharp, I think that is what coaching is about. Your credibility is put to the test every day as a coach, regardless of whether you’ve been on the job four years or four days. I understand that. That’s part of the profession. When you continue to assess where we are with the work we’ve done, with our staff, with the environment that we’ve created, we rely a great deal on getting a sense from players where they are with things, so we’ll continue in that regard because that’s the work necessary to continue to be successful.”

On the timeliness of the decision:
“I would reiterate, following some of the other discussions, that it was getting to the point where a decision would be reached. I was pleased to get the call and come to New York to talk more about continuing.”

On his reflection concerning opportunities with U.S. Soccer and abroad:
“The perspective we have gained in the last two summers for our team and players has been significant and there has been a great respect internationally for the job that was done coaching-wise. It was nice to talk to people in different situations and get a sense of what opportunities might exist now or going forward. I was always quite clear, when people would ask me if there was interest [in those jobs], that there was but I did not have definitive discussions. There was a process, on one side, of assessing the situation around the world while at the same time always reiterating how strongly I felt about the job I had done the last four years, and talking about the challenge of continuing.”

On the assessment of the U.S. MNT at the beginning of the 2014 FIFA World Cup cycle:
“When you begin a cycle, you do an overall assessment; you take inventory with your team. There are players, depending on their ages, who decide for themselves their international careers are over and discussions take place as to what it looks like as we move through the next phase. Most important is identifying players, beginning the process of bringing those players into national team camps, and looking for opportunities to get them into games. I really believe strongly our staff did an excellent job of that in the last cycle. We will try to do a better job as we begin this cycle. Every fixture date gets assessed: whether there are days of training leading into the game, who the opponent is, what the schedule is for players in MLS or abroad. We put all those things together and try to find the right time and place to introduce players into the national team. Certainly the next fixture date in October gives us opportunities. There are players out there we have watched, and we do a thorough job of keeping track of players around the world as we go through games with the idea of looking for players who we believe can be moved into our program.”

On the possibility of making structural and budgetary changes:
“Things stay pretty much the way they were. We will certainly continue the types of discussions that take place with people at different levels, whether that's Thomas [Rongen, U-20 MNT head coach] and his staff or Wilmer [Cabrera, U-17 MNT head coach] and his group. We've tried and will continue to work hard to make sure we're sharing information and connecting the dots so the work around the country can continue to get better. As far as budget, U.S. Soccer has always had an open mind when I talk to them about things like that and I believe that will continue to be the case.”

On the response around the world to the progress made by the U.S. Men's National Team:
“Without a doubt in the last couple of years I have been fortunate to have come across soccer people who have taken notice of our team and I am proud of that. The timing after a World Cup is interesting. As much as it's a nice thing that clubs in a top league are thinking about you, the types of discussions that I had also included teams around the world, in other leagues and national teams. Without a doubt I am a product of coaching in the United States and in MLS, but it's not a period of time typically when MLS teams are looking for coaches. You try to see going forward what those type of opportunities may be. Whether it's American players or coaches, as much as we continue to grow it's still a challenge for all of us and that's just the way it is.”

On whether he will keep a core of the team together as they move toward 2014:
“We will continue to bring good, young players into the team. I think it’s important to note that we still have a nucleus of players who have played big roles in this past cycle that I am confident will continue to play big roles in the next cycle. The work will always be to challenge some players to take bigger roles, step up a little bit more, and combine that with trying to find new players and move them into the team. We will continue to bring good, young players into the team. I think it’s important to note that we still have a nucleus of players who have played big roles in this past cycle that I am confident will continue to play big roles in the next cycle. The work will always be to challenge some players to take bigger roles, step up a little bit more, and combine that with trying to find new players and move them into the team.”

On how different he thinks the 2014 team will be from the 2010 team:
“I think it’s hard to give a very specific answer on how different the team will look. When I look back on what’s taken place the last four years, we do believe that we brought some good players into the mix. We got them experience. The balance we had with players who had been there before and younger players I think was a good one. We’ll need to work in all those ways again. It’s important to always make sure that players in the national team program recognize the competitive part of it. Quite honestly, that is a little bit of what we talked about with our team following the most recent friendly with Brazil. The work that went into playing at a high level in both the Confederations Cup and the World Cup as we begin a new cycle, that begins all over again. That game served as a good reminder to all of us that to get to that level and above will take improvement in all areas.”

On whether American soccer is producing top level players:
“To have a chance to go further in tournaments and to try to be a top team in the world, you of course take the group you have and make sure there is competition, that you’re playing good teams. You do all those things, but at the same time we must work with MLS, with our Under-20s, U-18s and U-17s, to get the sense that what we need to continue to do to raise the bar for our players. That is an incredibly important part going forward. We’ve started a lot of good things, but to continue to make sure that our efforts are united and that we’re aware of how to do things better so we give ourselves that kind of chance going forward. Those are the kind of efforts and discussions that are ongoing and will be very important for the future of our national team.”

On things he wants to be able to improve on:
“When we look back on things that need to be better, it’s always the ability to be more successful in the hardest games. For example, we had stretches in the last four years where our defending as a team was very good. We work a lot to make sure that there is a good understanding on the field in terms of how we move, where we pressure and how we cover each other. And yet, when you get to the most difficult games, that doesn’t always mean you do it as well in those games as you need to in order to win. Things get put to the test. It may be that at one point things are good, a little while later it shows that while we’ve improved, it must continue. I don’t think it’s a matter of just telling you one or two things. The best teams in the world do the most things the best. You can look at a team like Brazil, as good as they are with the ball, the commitment they have as a team and the understanding that they have. The ability to create chances, and when they lose the ball they recover it quickly. We have really tried to make sure that our players, throughout this entire cycle understand what the levels are and what the best teams do well. We’ve played in games that have tested us to perform at that level, and to give players a real first-hand experience in where we need to improve. When I talk about the work continuing, it’s with all that in mind.”

On his vision for the next cycle:
“I think that when you watched our team in the last four years, a vision means as a team we take the qualities that we have, our mobility, our athleticism, we combine them with continued attempts to improve our understanding and the way we create chances, the way we pass and move. The idea that we are a team that’s mobile, athletic. We are a team that continues to improve technically. That shows in the way we pass the ball, create chances. We have to combine those things with a team concept because, again, we’re not yet at the point where our talent level is up with the best teams in the world. In order to have a chance, we’ve shown, we have to compete with them and to beat those teams we still need collectively strong team efforts and a team mentality. I believe it’s taking those things that are in place, and those are regular discussions that go on with our youth coaches, Development Academy coaches, to put that into play. It’s very important, I think, to understand that you can have a day where you are the team that’s better with the ball. You control the game more, dictate the terms, and yet you may come against an opponent in the next game where the bar gets raised on their end a little bit. It doesn’t mean that you throw the attempts from the previous game out the window, but you recognize that doing it against top teams changes the game a little bit. I’ve used the example over and over with our team in recent years that if, at the club level anywhere in the world you play against Barcelona, even if you think you’re good with the ball, when you play them you have to understand that they are better with the ball. It’s in all of these ways that we look very hard at what we’re all about, and continue to try to build our team with the qualities that we think American players have.”

On what will constitute satisfaction with the team after the 2014 cycle:
“I’m not easily satisfied. There are always two sides to this. There is a side in terms of what the team is all about, how it competes, what are the performances like. We look back at this cycle and in those ways we felt good about those things. In those ways, the response around the world and at home was positive. At the same time, we recognize that at every tournament you want to go as far as you can. You want to win and you want to make the final. We feel good about what we have accomplished, but that doesn’t mean that we think it’s all perfect. That’s what motivates us and our players so we’ll continue to work at it.”