Alexander Abnos: Bringing Stabaek to Europe | Winning a double with an MLS expansion team
This is a tough call. Bradley’s coaching career has been full of notable accomplishments, and all of them seem to be impressive in different ways. His work with the Egyptian national team showed his strength of his conviction and character as a man. The U.S. national team’s performance at the 2009 Confederations Cup showed Bradley’s ability to construct a team for a tournament and gameplan effectively.
However, my choice for his greatest accomplishment as manager is a tie between Stabaek’s Europa League-qualifying season in 2014-15, and his 1998 MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup-winning campaign with the Chicago Fire in their inaugural season in MLS.
With Stabaek, he took an unfancied club with limited financial resources to European competition (where they promptly fell to a Welsh Premier League club under Bradley’s successor). With Chicago, he oversaw what is still the single best inaugural season for any club in MLS history, and built a foundation for a Fire team that would be a powerhouse throughout the last 90s and early aughts. Both jobs speak directly to his ability to outperform expectations as a manager at club level, which he’ll have another chance to do at Swansea.
Also, his time at Stabaek contained this gem of a managerial moment, the likes of which I hope he takes with him to EPL post-match interviews:
Brian Straus: Coaching Egypt and all it entailed
He beat Spain, finished first in a World Cup group, won the double with an expansion team and even got Chivas USA to the playoffs. But nothing compares to his performance in Egypt, where he took a national team reeling from the 2011 revolution, the Port Said massacre and the cancellation of the Premier League season to within a game of the 2014 World Cup. The Pharaohs won seven of eight qualifiers (some of which were played behind closed doors) and were unlucky to draw Ghana in the playoff (CAF has since ditched that format).
Never mind the obvious political, cultural and linguistic obstacles facing an American coach in charge of one of the most popular, storied institutions in the Arab world’s most populous country. He overcame those and committed himself even further—marching with protesters, visiting hospitals and making himself accessible to fans and media. That he stayed is impressive. That he took Egypt to the threshold of the World Cup is remarkable.
Grant Wahl: The tough road to Swansea
It says something about Bradley’s career that there are multiple possible answers here.
For me, his greatest accomplishment is the work he did with Egypt, Stabaek and Le Havre that helped earn him the Swansea job. Few coaches would have turned down seven-figure jobs in MLS for much less money and attention overseas. Few coaches would have stayed in Egypt when the country was going through a revolution and state of emergency. But Bradley wanted to do what it takes to give himself a chance to coach in a top European league. He never was sure that it would happen, but he did it anyway.
That belief and courage—and all the work, day after day—is a remarkable achievement.