Bob Bradley is a much, much more flexible manager than he's generally given credit for. When he came onto the scene as a head coach in MLS, his Chicago Fire played a 3-5-2 that sported arguably the most ruthless counterattack in league history. He later won literally hundreds of games playing variations on the 4-4-2, a 4-2-3-1, and a 4-3-3.
When he was the USMNT head coach, (dumb) fans called him "Bunker Bob" even though his team was the highest-scoring in USMNT history. Sometimes, against certain opponents, they did indeed sit deep, absorb, and then release the likes of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore forward on the counter.
Other times, they were more front-foot and aggressive, using the ball to break teams down and win games that mattered. Like against Spain in 2009 Confederations Cup semifinals:
That wasn't a fluky win. That was a coach putting skillful, creative players like the ones above, and Benny Feilhaber and Michael Bradley, into positions where they could win games. Sometimes that means taking advantage of a clumsy touch, and sometimes that means just outplaying whoever you're facing, and Bradley's teams have, over the years, shown the ability to do either or both.
That's flexibility, but it's not a flexibility born of dogma or buzzwords. Bradley is, at his core, a pragmatist. He is not married to any particular tactical approach beyond "do what wins," which is why he makes very good sense to guide an expansion team – there will be no sacred cows save for the W.
So the question becomes, then, "How will he go about shaping this team?"
It's probably too early to answer that definitively, but here are some things to bear in mind:
• Bradley has coached in Scandinavia, France, the UK and North Africa. He will not have any problems pulling in players from parts of the world often left uncovered in MLS.
• He was masterful at using the SuperDraft to acquire talent. Guys like Sacha Kljestan, Carlos Bocanegra, Jim Curtin, Eddie Gaven, Mike Magee, Ricardo Clark and, yes, Michael Bradley, were all his picks during his previous stops in the league.
Even though the SuperDraft is a less crucial instrument for roster building in this modern era of MLS, it still matters. That No. 1 pick next year is an asset that's likely to be put to good use.
• He's had success plucking talent from central America, specifically in the case of 2004 MLS MVP Amado Guevara.
• LAFC are going to sign some big names. Bradley is just about the only guy available, now that Sigi Schmid's off the table (what a day for soccer in LA) who has experience handling those kinds of names as well as winning in MLS.
Thus hiring Bradley – the pragmatist who, by winning the MLS Cup/US Open Cup double in 1998 with Chicago, sculpted the expansion season that all other expansion seasons are measured by – was the pragmatic move, and probably the right one for LAFC.
And now it's time to see how the roster starts to take shape.