LOS ANGELES — The last time Bob Bradley coached in MLS, it was 2006. There were 12 teams in the league, none in Canada or the Pacific Northwest.
The era also predated the Designated Player.
David Beckham’s arrival in 2007 transformed MLS forever. Before he came there had been some stars, but never before had superstars closer to their primes been lured to the league. Since then, the number of those stars, young and old, effective and less than, have helped to completely change the face of MLS.
Does that distort the picture of the league’s first decade? Bradley, announced as Los Angeles Football Club’s first head coach this week, would likely argue that.
When asked if he would find adjusting to the Designated Player era a challenge, Bradley rattled off a list of names, some of the biggest stars of the first decade in Major League Soccer history.
“Peter Nowak, Lubos Kubik, Hristo Stoichkov, Youri Djorkaeff, Claudio Suarez, Jorge Campos – I’ve worked with some pretty big players in MLS. If the rules had been different, all of those players were Designated Players,” Bradley explained to reporters on Friday after his introductory press conference.
The 59-year-old, who led the 1998 expansion Chicago Fire to a MLS Cup/U.S. Open Cup double in their debut season, led the MetroStars to their first Open Cup final in 2003, and orchestrated a one-season turnaround for Chivas USA in 2006 after that team’s disastrous expansion year, elaborated on his philosophy for putting a roster together.
“I understand the balance in terms of trying to have some players who provide a name, an experience and understand winning. And then how to make sure you have the right younger players there to benefit and grow. That was the way I always thought about things. I think we can do that as part of the way we put this team together.”
As for his goals with LAFC, Bradley was not interested in offering easily quantifiable benchmarks on his first day as manager, instead looking at the situation from a broader perspective: “To have a team that’s fun to watch, a team that competes, a team that plays good football, a team that connects with this city and the supporters in all ways.”
When pressed about a goal of reaching the playoffs in LAFC’s debut season, something no expansion team has done since the Seattle Sounders in 2009, he did admit it was something to strive for.
“Look: In the midst of what kind of team you want to have, you have to compete,” Bradley said. “The starting point when you compete in MLS is to be in the playoffs. So I certainly know that’s one of the first goals. But I still prefer to look more on the side of how you build a team to compete that can play a certain kind of football, that then has a chance over time to do great things.”
“You try to balance both [long-term and short-term goals]. But certainly, you don’t want to take shortcuts for success in the short run that now take away your opportunity of this vision that you have in the long run.”
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