U.S. coach and son ready for unique World Cup experience
By Pat Martin, Soccer Editor
Princeton, NJ (Sports Network) - By now it's old news.
U.S. soccer coach Bob Bradley coaching his son, Michael, at the senior national team level - a unique experience for sure, especially with the U.S. in camp gearing up for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa next month.
But when you talk to both men, you get the feeling that each one is different, something special. They are the same in that way.
"It comes down to their personalities that they both have that drive and determination to make it at the highest level and Bob has obviously had a great coaching career and now he is the coach of the national team," U.S. World Cup hopeful Stuart Holden said.
"They are fairly similar," U.S. attacker Landon Donovan said of the Bradleys. "I think we all realize as we get older, for better or for worse, we are a lot more like our parents then we ever want to be."
In the soccer aspect, it's for the better.
"They see the game the same way and certainly their intensity and how much they really care [is the same]," Donovan said. "Their passion is very evident and I think it rubs off on all of us."
That passion has helped Michael become a staple in the midfield for the USA. He is one of the few central midfielders on the current U.S. roster that has his spot locked up heading into the World Cup.
That has nothing to do with nepotism. As Bob preaches to all his players, "it has to be earned." Michael most certainly has done that.
Michael got his first cup of coffee with the national team in 2006 as it prepared for the World Cup in Germany under former coach Bruce Arena. He was on the provisional World Cup roster, but didn't make the final 23.
"I vaguely remember when Michael came in," Donovan said of that 2006 camp. "Michael was a late bloomer in that way. Even at that time you could see that he had something about him that was different. I don't know if any of us thought he would get to the level he's gotten to today."
According to Michael, that experience was invaluable to him as an 18-year-old.
"It was great, it was my first time with the national team," he said. "I got to see what things were like on the inside. I got to train, I ended up getting my first two caps. The whole experience of being with the team that was getting ready for a World Cup was really important for me. And now, obviously I haven't been to a World Cup, but the experience of having been there last time and being with the team is definitely helping me this time."
Since his father Bob took over for Arena following the 2006 cycle, Michael has cemented himself as one of the U.S. team's most important players, as well as a respected footballer in Europe.
The 22-year-old started his professional career in Major League Soccer, playing for his dad with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in 2004 and 2005 before moving to Heerenveen of the Dutch Eredivisie in January of 2006. He played there through the 2007-08 season when he scored 21 goals in all competitions before signing a four-year deal with Borussia Monchengladbach of the German Bundesliga that August. He has now established himself as a regular starter in one of the world's top leagues.
"When you get to know Michael and see how much he cares and you see how hard he works, there was only going to be one outcome, and that was going to be successful for him," Donovan said. "He's now become an absolute staple in our team. When he doesn't play it hurts us."
Michael inherited his work ethic from his father, who began his coaching career, coincidentally, when he was 22. After 15 years in the college ranks, the elder Bradley became Arena's assistant with D.C. United in the first season of MLS. Two seasons later, he became the head coach of the expansion Chicago Fire, a team that won the U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup in its first season.
In 2002, Bradley became the coach of the MetroStars before taking over at Chivas USA in Los Angeles for the 2006 season. He coached there one year before being named the U.S. national team coach early in 2007.
Now, father and son are standing shoulder to shoulder, preparing for an appearance together on their sport's biggest stage. Arguably the biggest stage in all of sports.
"We are so excited," Bob said. "We think we have grown as a team. We want to make sure we work hard and prepare, that the mentality is right."
During the process, has the father/son relationship affected the coach/player dynamic?
"He's the coach, he's my dad. I'm the player, I'm his son," Michael said. "There's not much else to it. It's not something that I think about a whole lot and it's not something he thinks a whole lot. It is what it is."
"He's a player. He's a professional player," Bob said. "He understands as well as anybody how you earn respect in the group and so when we are at work, there is nothing more than that."
And how is that respect earned, Michael?
"I play the way I play. I give everything I have for the team."