CARSON, Calif. - Over the years, Chivas USA midfielder Jesse Marsch has been groomed closely by ex-Chivas USA coach Bob Bradley. The pair have bonded so close in fact that when word broke of Bradley's new job, it was Marsch who reaped some peripheral benefits.
"In the past few days, I've gotten about 30 phone calls or e-mails almost calling to congratulate me," Marsch joked after training on Wednesday.
Bradley had the interim tag removed from his title as he was named U.S. national team head coach on Wednesday. As an interim coach, Bradley was 3-0-1 with wins against Mexico and Ecuador. In his four games in charge of the U.S., the team has scored eight goals and surrendered just two.
Despite the team's impressive start and the effective style of play the U.S. has shown under Bradley, almost two months have passed since the team last played before Bradley was finally given the job permanently.
"It's about time," said Marsch, who first played for Bradley at Princeton University. "I think (U.S. Soccer president) Sunil (Gulati) recognized that Bob is the right guy for the job. Maybe he felt a little bit of pressure to see what he could piece together."
Still, spending any time around Bradley is enough for people to see his true worth, he said.
"Anybody who has been around Bob any amount of time really respects how he handles himself, how he runs a team, how he treats people, his soccer knowledge, what he brings out of his players, the environment he creates, the whole bit," said Marsch, who was with D.C. United when Bradley was an assistant there in 1996-97.
Bradley helped transform Chivas USA into a competitive and respectable MLS team. After taking over a four-win club in November 2005, Bradley brought in several veterans such as former Fire standouts Marsch and Ante Razov and Mexico World Cup veteran Claudio Suarez, as well as rookies Jonathan Bornstein and Sacha Kljestan.
The club went through some growing pains, losing four of its first six games, but afterward was one of the best teams in Major League Soccer. Chivas USA finished with a 10-9-13 record and reached the playoffs for the first time ever.
Still, the season ended with no title as Chivas USA lost in the first round to eventual champions Houston. Such a cup-less ending has been on of Bradley's criticisms - he has just one MLS Cup title to show for nine years as a head coach.
"We were all disappointed in Chicago that we didn't walk away with more championships than we should have. There were some weird circumstances there. A couple of years there were injuries at tough times, big guys getting hurt and everyone was kind of gunning for us," Marsch said. "I understand that criticism and I can accept that as well but in terms of really putting a team together over a 10-month season, there is no doubt he's had some of the best teams ever."
Now, Bradley has the chance to continue the work he started. In January, Bradley held his first training camp and won his first game as U.S. coach - a 3-1 win against Denmark at The Home Depot Center. On Feb. 7, Bradley led a young U.S. squad to a 2-0 win against Mexico in Glendale, Ariz. Every U.S. player who took the field for that game is either on an MLS roster, such as Chivas USA's Jonathan Bornstein or Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark - or was an MLS product now overseas - such as Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard or Fulham forward Clint Dempsey.
With former mainstays such as New York captain Claudio Reyna, former Columbus Crew star Brian McBride and Real Salt Lake defender Eddie Pope no longer a part of the U.S. national team, Bradley's era will have its own identity.
It's in that capacity that Bradley excels, Marsch said.
"He's certainly got a tough job ahead of him. It's not like this group is so experienced and so talented. He's got a lot of work to do which is also why I think he's a good fit because he's not just a coach or a manager, he's a teacher," Marsch said. "These guys in a lot of ways are going to need to be groomed and taught and made into the team that we need them to be."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.