Bob Bradley has already established an extensive body of work in MLS, and on Sunday, he'll face off against one of the men who helped him establish his mark on the league.
Bradley's LAFC will face Chris Armas' New York Red Bulls in the teams' first-ever meeting (6 pm ET | FS1 — Full TV & Streaming Info). Armas, recently appointed head coach of the Red Bulls, will go head-to-head against his former manager for the first time.
The partnership between the men over the years was fruitful. Joining the expansion Chicago Fire in 1998, Armas was a key figure on Bradley's squad, as the Fire completed an unprecedented MLS Cup-U.S. Open Cup double in the team's debut season, and followed it up with another U.S. Open Cup title in 2000.
Both coaches were asked about the relationship in training this week, before their first meeting from opposite technical areas.
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"Well their entire staff has a special place for me, friendships and soccer relationships, we all go way back," Armas told reporters. "And in all reality, what I'm most focused on is three points at home. We know that Bob and his staff have had an amazing season, they're surprising some people, but not us over here. We know what they're capable of, and it's no real surprise. It's always special -- I don't get to see Bob, [LAFC assistant coach] Ante Razov, I don't get to see those guys often enough in general, so it will always be good to battle with those guys on the day."
While Bradley has 20 years of head coaching experience at the professional level, Armas will be in his seventh game in charge with the Red Bulls. But the LAFC coach paid tribute to Armas' talents and work ethic.
"Chris was one of the best guys that I coached," he told reporters with a smile. "Came in every day, incredible way about him, made guys around him better. And I know that as an assistant, that was a big part of his role. He'll take that same way of handling himself, turn it into being a head coach. Red Bull has a way of doing things, and he's been a big part of their success, and I know he's going to do really well.
"The part that Chris brings is players love being around him," Bradley added. "Every day he shows up with enthusiasm, he holds guys accountable, but he does it in a way that people never take it wrong. That's how he was as a player and I know that's what he's like as a coach."
Armas said he was Bradley's "biggest fan" as he's followed his career, from Armas' youth soccer days to Bradley's travails abroad.
"When I was 14 years old, [Bradley has] always been supportive of me, as my regional coach," Armas explained. "And now these days, it's just each of us showing support for the other one. Along the way, I've been Bob's biggest fan, watching him coach here or overseas or the World Cup. I think just on that day [I was appointed Red Bulls head coach], Bob just offered the support back and the best wishes. It'll be great to see Bob and his staff."
When asked if Armas was surprised Bradley is doing well with LAFC in their debut season, currently sitting in second place in the Western Conference, the man who was a key part of the Fire's inaugural season didn't blink in assessing the latest project.
"Listen, I'll tell you, Bob is a winner. If you look at his college teams, if you look at any team he's coached, expansion team, national team -- look at the job he did with the [US] national team," Armas said. "It was a team you could easily get behind and believe in. They were excellent when he was in charge, I think the results showed that...With his staff and John Thorrington and those guys, good people, good soccer people, which means they're making good decisions on players and a way to play."
No surprise, but Armas complimented Bradley for the same attribute his counterpart paid tribute to with him.
"I think most importantly Bob gets the most out of people, that's what he does."