Three for Thursday: Why Bradley belongs back in Chicago

Bob Bradley as Chicago Fire head coach in 1998

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Bob Bradley is no longer employed. That much we know.

But where the ex-US national team boss will head to next, however, we can only speculate.

Bradley, who has nine years of head coaching experience in Major League Soccer, would be a perfect fit in Chicago at his former club. The Fire are currently the only team in MLS with a coaching vacancy, and despite the valiant efforts of interim head coach and technical director Frank Klopas to try and rekindle the flame, they still sit tied for last place in the Eastern Conference table and have notched only two wins through 21 games so far this season.

There have been no connections at all between Bradley and the Fire front office to this point, and there may not ever be. The bottom line, however, is this: The Fire need a coach and Bob Bradley needs a job.

Ahead of Bradley’s next move, which is sure to be a topic of discussion for soccer pundits and fans alike, we tell you three reasons why Bob belongs back at the helm in Chicago.

1. Success: Bob Bradley won. Simple as that. 

Bradley took over the reins of the Fire in 1998 during their inaugural season and led them to both the MLS Cup and the US Open Cup, earning MLS Coach of the Year honors along the way. In just five seasons with the club, he is the most winningest coach in the franchise’s 14-year history and still the only one to lead them to an MLS title.

To put things into perspective, consider this: During Bradley’s five-year stint, he won 82 of the 151 games the Fire played, compiling a 54 percent winning percentage. In the five years after Bradley’s departure, the club won only 61 of 154 games for a winning percentage just shy of 40 percent. In fact, in the eight-and-a-half years since Bradley left, the Fire have only won 96 games total, and took home the full three points only 36 percent of the time.

Numbers don’t lie, and the fact of the matter is that Bradley got the job done. For a team desperate for some Ws and a confidence boost, a manager with a history of success just may be what Chicago need.

2. Stability: The Fire have not seen much of it during the past four seasons.

With Klopas, Chicago are on their fifth head man since 2007. In the 10 seasons before that, they had just two. Throw in a plethora of new player acquisitions over the past 12 months and you’re looking at a team that lacks a sense of cohesion.

Bradley just may be the guy to bring an identity and a presence to a club that has been lacking one in recent years. LA have Bruce Arena, Seattle have Sigi Schmid, Real Salt Lake have Jason Kreis. What do all three managers bring to their respective sides? A face of the organization — and wins.

With a victory total that has been declining every year since 2008, it’s about time that Chicago define themselves as a contender once again.

3. International Credibility: It’s understood that players like to play for well-respected and established coaches. A prominent name with international credibility at the center of the Fire organization would undoubtedly bolster Chicago’s appeal as a potential suitor for budding young talent abroad.

Bradley would not only bring his experience with him to Chicago, but also an effective marketing value to lure in some more firepower (no pun intended). Chicago have done well recently in that department, most notably with the acquisitions of Sebastián Grazzini and Mexican legend Pável Pardo, but an already-established veteran who has coached at the highest level would open even more doors.

A few high-profile transfers and a turnaround in the win column aren’t guaranteeing immediate success. What they do offer, though, is an opportunity for Chicago to get back into the fast lane for another run at the MLS Cup a few years down the line.

While Bradley’s future is uncertain, the possibility of a return to Chicago just makes sense. And that much we do know. 


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