It’s mailbag time again, and lots of you had questions about the historic hiring of Bob Bradley by Swansea City, which makes Bradley the first American to manage a Premier League team—or, for that matter, any team in Europe’s top five leagues.
So let's jump right into this week's 'Bag!
What are reasonable expectations for Bob Bradley at Swansea? (@SeanPierce05)
Well, Swansea is currently in 17th place, just one spot above the relegation zone, so the most important thing for Bradley to do is to avoid the drop. In the five seasons that Swansea has been in the Premier League, the club has finished (most recent season first) 12th, 8th, 12th, 9th and 11th in the league. That’s impressive for a club of Swansea’s size. But clearly the Swans miss Ashley Williams, the captain who was sold in the summer to Everton. Bradley has to come into the club during the season and start getting results.
Who would be next American coach to land a big coaching gig along the lines of Bob Bradley? (@JPointelin)
The guy to keep an eye on is David Wagner, the German-American coach who has Huddersfield Town atop the English second tier right now. Wagner, who got eight U.S. caps under Steve Sampson in the 1990s, is a close friend of Jürgen Klopp, and his team employs a similar pressing style to Klopp’s outfits. One way to land a Premier League job is by getting promoted, of course, and while it’s still early, Wagner and Huddersfield are off to a great start.
Also in Europe, Steve Cherundolo is part of the technical staff at Hannover (currently in second place in the German second tier) and could have a very promising future in coaching. When it comes to U.S.-based coaches, 65-year-old Bruce Arena may have missed his window to coach in Europe. Arena was offered a job at Denmark’s Brondby after World Cup 2006, but told Alexi Lalas of Fox Sports that he wasn’t able to get out of his contract with U.S. Soccer.
Caleb Porter, coach of 2015 MLS champion Portland, is just 41 and follows the European game closely, but no move by Porter to Europe seems imminent. Meanwhile, Gregg Berhalter, 43, reached the MLS final with Columbus last season and did coach in Europe with Sweden’s Hammarby. Both Porter and Berhalter could miss out on the MLS playoffs this season, however.
I think New York Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch, last year’s MLS Coach of the Year, has the quality and temperament to do well in Europe if he wants to move in that direction at some point. He’s just 42.
Thoughts on Gerardo Martino at Atlanta United? Where does this rank in terms of hires in the league? (@DougRobersonAJC)
It says something for MLS when Atlanta can hire a coach whose last two jobs were Argentina and Barcelona. It’s a little hard to “rank” coaching hires in MLS because the vast majority of the successful coaches in the history of the league have been Americans without big international names who earned every ounce of what they achieved: Bruce Arena, Sigi Schmid, Bob Bradley, etc.
But if we’re looking for trends, I think Martino is of a piece with NYCFC’s hire of Patrick Vieira: A guy who’s a recognizable name internationally whose track record includes developing talent, whether it’s Vieira with Man City’s youth set-up or Martino with his work at Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina. Vieira has done really well this season, and if Martino can do the same, we may finally be able to retire the old saw about big-name foreign coaches being abject failures in MLS.
Is Chuck Blazer still alive? (@JT_SPURS)
Yes! The disgraced American former FIFA exec has been posting again recently on Facebook, where he said he is cancer-free and “learning how to speak again” now that he’s off a ventilator. Blazer, 71, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion in the FIFA scandal. He is still awaiting sentencing.
What are your thoughts on the 15-year-old Whitecaps player after his game vs Seattle? (@SSFCFOTY15)
Alphonso Davies is extremely promising at 15, that’s my thought. He did great work to earn a penalty against Seattle’s Oniel Fisher and give the Whitecaps an early lead (that they eventually squandered). Davies, who’s eligible for Canada, has now started two MLS games, becoming the second-youngest MLS player ever after Freddy Adu, and he’s one more example that some fascinating young MLS players are coming through the ranks.
Considering The Beckham Experiment was a decade ago, shouldn't we be past four charter flights per team a season in MLS? (@MChrisman13)
The question is referring to Kevin Baxter’s revealing story in the Los Angeles Times about LA Galaxy’s commercial flights in 2016. It does surprise me that MLS still only allows teams four charter flights per season, supposedly so that it doesn’t create a “competitive advantage” for teams that have wealthier owners who are willing to travel in better accommodations. But come on, MLS: It’s 2016. If you’re talking big about asking for $200 million expansion fees for new teams, you can afford to treat your players like their colleagues in the NHL and other leagues.
Is Man City’s loss just a slip-up or will more teams be able to expose their defensive fragility? (@SamPapworth)
The loss to Spurs exposed some flaws in the City’s defensive approach, but it wasn’t just that game. The 3-3 Champions League tie against Celtic midweek was even more concerning. Suddenly, Aleksandar Kolarov doesn’t look like such a genius move at center back, and the available fullbacks won’t exactly remind Pep Guardiola of David Alaba and Philipp Lahm. Plus, the ongoing injury struggles of Vincent Kompany are a true shame for a fantastic player. Celtic and Spurs won’t be the only teams that take advantage of City’s situation.
How much of an advantage is it to Liverpool to not play European football this year in EPL terms? (@thedudeabides81)
I think it’s a big advantage, especially considering 1) the punishing style that Liverpool plays, and 2) that Leicester City took advantage of a similar situation last season. You knew that once Klopp started getting his guys on the team, Liverpool had a chance to take the next step this season. Now it’s happening.
Will the USMNT have an easy or really tough road in the Hexagonal? (@4StringJoe)
It all depends on the first two qualifiers in November at home against Mexico and away to Costa Rica. Four points or better would be fantastic. Three would be O.K., and anything less than three could make things difficult in the Hex. It’s a long road, obviously, but having these two games to start will make things fascinating.