Donovan, Arena back Bradley for success at Swansea City
CARSON, Calif. -- Bob Bradley took his first real steps toward Swansea City as part of Bruce Arena's staffs, but the most successful coach in the U.S. men's game isn't taking any credit for his former pupil's dramatic rise.
Bradley, 58, was appointed Monday as the new head coach at struggling Swansea City, becoming the first American in charge of an English Premier League team, and Arena, whose name has been linked to several EPL jobs in the past, was simply delighted.
“I think it's tremendous,” Arena said following the LA Galaxy's training session Tuesday morning at StubHub Center. “I think Americans can coach in that league, and I think Bob will demonstrate his qualities to everyone. ...
“Has nothing to do with me. Has [to do with] all of the hard work that Bob's put in over the years at his craft, and he deserves every bit of credit for it.”
Landon Donovan, whose signature moment -- the goal to beat Algeria at the 2010 World Cup -- came while playing for Bradley, called the appointment “really exciting for all of us who love the sport here and care about it.”
“I'm sure it will be met [in England and Wales] with some trepidation and caution, but that's what happened when the first Americans went over to play in the English Premier League,” said Donovan, who spent two brief loan spells in the EPL with Everton. “I think it's a great opportunity, and Bob knows better than anyone that he has to prove himself now, so he's wanted this opportunity, and now he has it.”
Bradley, who for the past 11 months was in charge of Le Havre in France's Ligue 2, served as Arena's assistant with three teams: at the University of Virginia in the early 1990s, with D.C. United in MLS' first two seasons, and with the 1996 U.S. Olympic team. He bested his mentor in 1998, when the expansion Chicago Fire denied D.C. a third straight title in an MLS Cup upset, and also coached the MetroStars and Chivas USA before succeeded Arena as U.S. national team coach in 2006.
Since his ouster shortly after guiding the U.S. to the round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup, Bradley has been in charge of Egypt's national team and in Norway with Stabaek before taking Le Havre within one win of promotion to Ligue 1. His last game in France, Monday against Sochaux, was a 2-1 victory that left Le Havre fifth in the standings.
He'll face a difficult challenge with Swansea, which is winless in six EPL matches since a 1-0 victory at Burnley in the league opener. The club has four points from seven games, is 17th in the standings, and figures to fight for survival this season. His first match will be Oct. 15 at Arsenal.
“There's no question regarding Bob's ability as a coach,” Arena said. “It's always been there, he's always aspired to achieve and get better, and throughout his career, he's demonstrated that. He does everything well as a coach. He's a perfectionist, he likes detail, he liked accountability of his players. He's just a hard-working, detailed guy and he expected that our of his players and the people he works with. He creates a good working environment on a daily basis.”
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Donovan believes he'll quickly win over doubters, especially among players.
“First and foremost, he's honest,” Donovan said. “You know he doesn't play games, he doesn't manipulate in any way. If he has an issue with something, he says it. Everyone gets held accountable in the same way. That's important, and that's important in a locker room with world-class players, like the Swansea locker room has.
“That will help him, I think, gain respect immediately, that he's honest and forthright. And then he's been around the game forever, he's been successful in everything he's done, and I expect this to be the same.”
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Bradley's appointment could lead to EPL jobs other American coaches. The league has several clubs with American owners, including Swansea, which is led by D.C. United managing general partner Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan, with whom he worked for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies.
“I would think if Bob experiences success, it'll open some eyes,” Arena said. “There should have been American coaches in that league earlier than this, so I think, obviously, Bob might be carrying a little weight on his shoulders for American coaches. Clearly, if he does well, it will open the door for others.”
Like, perhaps, Arena?
“All I'm trying to do is with the next soccer game [the Galaxy plays],” he said. “That's all I'm trying to do right now.”