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Bradley, U.S. soccer face tough questions
By Pat Martin, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In the wake of the U.S. national soccer team's disappointing 2-1 loss to Ghana in its FIFA World Cup round-of-16 match on Saturday, there has been a lot of talk about the future of head coach Bob Bradley.

Will he be the coach for the next World Cup cycle, or is it time to go in another direction?

First, the tough questions need to be asked.

Did the U.S. team reach its full potential in the tournament? Maybe.

You could argue no, given the way the bracket opened up for the team. But if England had taken care of its business as expected, the U.S. would have finished second in Group C and then faced Germany instead of Ghana in the second round. Would the perception of the team's failings be the same then?

Can Bradley take this team to the next level? Another maybe.

He showed he can adapt in both the Slovenia and Algeria games, bringing in a forward for a center back when his team needed a goal in the second half of both games. Can you ever recall Bruce Arena - the all-time wins leader in U.S. soccer history - make a substitution to open his team up in an effort to get a goal during his eight-year tenure? Me neither.

There is also no guarantee there even is another level. Until U.S. soccer is improved at the grassroots level, no coach on the planet is going to get the team to the top of the heap.

Did certain players who were counted on to be key contributors - Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Ricardo Clark, and the entire central defense, among others - come up short on a number of occasions over the past couple of weeks? You bet.

But how much of that falls on a coach instead of the players? Granted, it's the coach's job to get the most out of his players, but he shouldn't be responsible when Altidore and Dempsey repeatedly miss wide-open nets, or when the central defense tandem of Jay DeMerit and Carlos Bocanegra/Oguchi Onyewu lets players run right up the middle past them. It isn't like Bradley had better options on the bench.

That goes back to the grassroots failings, and the lack of a player pool to compete with the elite national teams.

Bradley did take the responsibility for Clark being on the field vs. Ghana, however. He admitted he made a mistake when he subbed the ineffective and mistake-prone midfielder out of the game after just over 30 minutes.

Is that mistake enough to cost Bradley a shot at another World Cup? Probably not, but that's a decision over which U.S. soccer president Sunil Gulati will have to deliberate.

So, did Bradley do enough to earn another cycle as the U.S. coach?

Yes. Stability is key at this point, with this player pool.

Until U.S. soccer has more to offer in terms of depth of talent, the sturdy and dependable Bradley is as good as it gets.

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