DAVID SMITH - Thursday, June 25, 2009
Following his team's semifinal upset of top-ranked Spain, Bob Bradley sees the win as the latest in a long line of vital stepping stones signaling the sport's development in the US.
The magnitude of the upset immediately garnered media comparisons to several similar shocks of years gone by, with pundits placing it on the same scale as famous World Cup victories over England in 1950 and Colombia in 1994, as well as the team's miraculous run to the quarterfinals in the 2002 edition - a view which Bradley is not shy to admit holding himself.
"As far a rating this victory, I think that it's always important to look and see how the different victories along the way have helped elevate US Soccer," Bradley assessed. "It began with the famous 1-0 victory against England, but there' been many since then."
"I think we're fortunate that tonight we can add [another] to the list."
While the team's progression in the nearly 60 years since first shocking the world in 1950 has been a slow process which has suffered its fair share of setbacks in adjunction with a steady growth, the proud coach stresses that no country can ever expect to make the jump from also-rans to consistent world-beaters overnight or even over a few decades, for that matter.
"There are so many countries in soccer that want to get to the top but there's no way to skip steps," he emphasizes. "You learn at each step, and so we understand that."
"We're proud that we're moving ahead and we look forward to a bunch of new steps in the future."
Bradley's associations with all aspects US Soccer run deep, as his many years forging a successful coaching career in the formative years of MLS and long-running connection with the national team setup have allowed him to see the mutual impact of the domestic league's growth and ever-increasing presence of American players in foreign countries.
"Our successes are a product of many things," he explains. "MLS is important in terms of growth. So many of these players began in MLS and that part of it is still important."
"We have players that have then chosen to go overseas. The experiences they get are also important."
The simultaneous coalescence of both factors, Bradley feels, is the springboard which will continue push the Stars and Stripes ahead as they try to regularly stay competitive with the established powerhouses of the world.
"As the league keeps improving, as we have more and more players playing on big teams, as we continue to have success as a national team playing against top teams, this is the way something grows."
In addition to seeing the national team forge successes on the field, Bradley takes heart in the growth of the team's reputation with fans across the world, as has been evidenced by the zealous welcome which they have received on their trip to South Africa.
"Every time we move around, we meet new people and we are made to feel like they appreciate our team, appreciate the way we play, and we have made so many friends."
"Every time we go into a stadium, the people, the atmosphere and the passion just lifts us."
This summer's trip to South Africa marks the team's second journey to the country under Bradley's tenure after a short visit in late-2007, and the comprehensively positive experience this time around has left Bradley and his team eager for a third trip back in 2010.
"Our experience in 2007 with the Mandela Challenge was start, but this Confederations Cup has really been special in every way."
"It's been a great experience overall."