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Bob Bradley: On LAFC, His U.S. Soccer Exile, Facing Zlatan, Mohamed Salah's Early Days

With his expansion side LAFC set to face the crosstown rival LA Galaxy, Bob Bradley opens up for a fascinating, wide-ranging discussion.

LAFC is off to a perfect start, having won the first two games of its MLS existence, and coach Bob Bradley joined the Planet Fútbol Podcast for a fascinating discussion ahead of the L.A. Derby against the LA Galaxy this Saturday (FOX, 3 p.m. ET). He talked about how he has built his LAFC team and a number of other topics, including his exile from U.S. Soccer and his work as the Egyptian national team manager where he helped cultivate and coach up a young Mohamed Salah.

You can listen to the full discussion in the podcast console below, and you can subscribe to and download the podcast on iTunes here.

Here are some of Bradley’s standout quotes in written form:

On what Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining the LA Galaxy means for the Los Angeles rivalry and for MLS:

“It makes everything bigger. Because look at what he’s done in his career. He’s a huge personality, and obviously on the field with the things he can do. And so there will always be questions when a player comes to the league and he’s a little bit older. But you can’t take anything away from Ibra and his career, man. The trophies and the personality and what he’s able to do on the field. We had a friendly years ago when I was coaching the U.S. team, and he’s such a big guy, but his way of taking certain balls, it’s Marco van Basten, but he’s even bigger. And so I think there’s no exact science to bringing players to the league. Certainly David Villa speaks to the idea that if you come and you’re motivated and you’re a great player, look at what can happen. So it makes the rivalry better.”

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On the argument that if you looked at Bradley’s coaching resume without his name on it, he would be a consensus top candidate to become the next U.S. men’s national team:

“Nobody looks at resumes without names on it. That’s not happening. Look, I’m proud of what I’ve done, and I think people that along the way have paid attention, players that I’ve worked with, I think they know what I’m all about. But not everybody understands that or sees that. And so look, I’ve never let any of that get in the way of trying to make myself better, looking for new challenges.

“I’ve not had five official words with U.S. Soccer since I got fired. So I’m certainly not a guy that they felt the need to ask anything of or anything else. That’s no problem. I always had this idea, and listen, I told [U.S. Soccer CEO] Dan Flynn at a certain point: 'This is who I am. I’m going to give everything I have. I believe in my work.' I think the results, the work, the way we played as a team, the growth, I think all those things speak for themselves.

“Even when I decided to stay on after the World Cup [in 2010], I sort of knew that the people who were putting the deal together didn’t really picture it being a four-year deal. That was for sure. But there weren’t other opportunities at that moment, so I said, ‘What the hell, I don’t care. I’m going to keep going and see if we can keep adding to the football part and make it better.’ And then when it was over, I also said I was going to move on, and that was that. I wasn’t going to complain. I wasn’t going to go on TV and act like I had answers on everybody else. I was going to move on and continue the part that I love the most.

“So that’s that. I’ve moved on. We’ll see what happens. It’s strange times. I think that the dialogue since the Trinidad game, the level of discussion, the number of people who talk who really have nothing to say, look, this part has to be improved. So we’ll see, little by little, what will happen. In a simple way … when you want to have a discussion, you have to very quickly decide who’s in the room and who’s not, right? Because having the right people in the room gives it a chance to go deep and be real.

“But it’s also just as important to make sure that the wrong people aren’t in the room, because they just interfere and get in the way. And look, all of this sounds tough, and I get it. Maybe there will be some people who would say, ‘Guess what, you don’t belong in the room.’ That’s fine. Just like players I’ve worked with over the years. Some, I’ve enjoyed the experiences and know the way things were done, the quality of the communication and everything else. And there’s other guys that, you know what, it didn’t go their way, so they can’t stand me. So I get that. I’m not too worried about that.

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“And so, no, I’m not on [U.S. Soccer’s] list. That’s that. I still care about the game in our country. I still have always been available for coaches, for players. I’ve never looked past a guy that wanted to come to training or talk about, ‘Why do I do things?’ Listen, I’ve been open. I understand I haven’t always been open with the media because sometimes there are hard things that get said on the inside and you feel they need to be direct and you don’t feel like sharing every bit of information with media. So yes, I haven’t always been as open as some people think I should have been. Maybe that’s fair. But having said that, in real discussions that have gone on, I’ve always been open, I engage people, I challenge people. I disagree, I agree. But I have never shut the door on anybody who has an interest. And that was true in all my years in the U.S., that was true in Egypt, Norway, France, Swansea.

“Look, that’s who I am. I’ll never change that part. And so when I read about, ‘Oh, it’s a closed system’ and the arrogance [in U.S. Soccer], I get it. But you know what? I also challenge some of the people who talk about they’ve been shut out, and I say, ‘Listen, you’re not the only one. You think you’re the only one that was on the wrong side of the railroad tracks at one time or another?’ So listen, I have no time for people who just act as though it’s a closed system.

“Anybody can go out and show what they’re all about. Go and start to coach a group of kids. Get involved. Make the football training that they’re involved in different. And whether it’s Development Academy, not Development Academy, affiliated, unaffiliated, who gives a s---? All right? Because at the end of the day, anybody who gets involved with a group of kids and turns it into football-wise something that’s different and something that’s real is making a mark. And then when you do that, if you have kids that now grow and become better players, yeah, then the challenge is to make sure they’re seen and everything, but you know what? That can happen. And so this whole discussion still blows me away.”

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On his days as the Egyptian national team coach working with an emerging talent named Mohamed Salah:

“The assistant that I was able to get from Egypt was Diaa El-Sayed. Diaa had been the Under-20 coach when Salah, [Ahmed] Hegazi, Omar Gaber, my man [Mohamed] El-Neny, when all those guys were there, they played in September of 2011 in Colombia with the Under-20s. And so I got there in October, and Diaa, even now when you look at what’s happened with that group of players, Diaa deserves so much credit. He’s such a special guy.

“We had a game a month later in October. We still gave more of the veterans chances, but we were going and watching games. And Neny and Salah played for Arab Contractors. They were a young team, and they in moments looked like they could play football. But they looked like a talented Under-19 team playing in a men’s league. And you could see that Salah had something, but you didn’t fully understand the timing of when it was all going to come together.

“And then as everybody knows, February 1 of 2012 was this massacre in Port Said. And the league was shut down, and we had a World Cup qualifier in June. And we had to come up with ways to prepare a team. And so we had camps. We couldn’t play games in Egypt. We had to set up friendlies through match agents in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and Khartoum, Sudan, and you name it. We were a traveling road show. When that happened, the key was we were able to start bringing in those young guys and see them up close.

“And from the first day when you got Salah in there, you realized how special he was. So explosive, so quick. Still raw, but wanted to learn, smart. And immediately [Egyptian star Mohamed] Aboutreika formed a connection with him where when Aboutreika had the ball, Salah had a certain understanding that he liked to come from the right side, from the outside in. And Treika had ways to find him with certain passes.

“So look, you could tell. And he was so hungry to get better. He wanted to work on his finishing. When you showed him things in training, the next day you’d see him doing it without even thinking about it. Salah is a special guy. I’m surprised that … he was at Chelsea, and they had veterans. But I thought that it would even happen there. But look, for different reasons it didn’t. I’ve heard that guys like [Didier] Drogba and [Eden] Hazard, who saw him at Chelsea, all to this day say he didn’t get enough opportunities there. But José [Mourinho]’s not always one who’s given opportunities for young players, but he went to Fiorentina, he went to Roma, and now this time around at Liverpool, obviously, what a season.

“And when you think about not only being explosive and being a real threat, but the goals that he’s now scoring, the different kind of finishes, I’m so thrilled for him. Because like I said, he’s worked very hard at it, and there’s always been something there that you knew was just really different.”