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Could We Be Any More Likeable?

Every couple of months, Bob Bradley produces a crisis of faith. His team slips and the mind wonders, what if Jurgen Klinsmann were the man in charge? Would we look so shaky in the back? Would our attack have a bit more flair? And then his team turns around and pulls out an incredible result—a smashing victory of Mexico in the Gold Cup, a stolen win from Spain, a fantastic half against Brazil. In this tournament, he has outcoached Fabio Capello; his tactics have been, to my eyes, largely sound. He never lets his own ego or rigidity interfere with the pragmatism that the moment demands. But more than that, his temperament infuses this very likable team. They never try to be any flashier than they are—and, of course, they have a temerity that should make them a potent tool for our public diplomacy. While American players have broken through into European sides, American coaches still haven’t crashed that ceiling. I’m not sure Bradley is the greatest thinker that American soccer has produced. But I hope that he gets the respect that he deserves. While his team didn’t conjure a victory like our opening win over Portugal in 2002, this was a far more satisfying, and in some ways more impressive run through the group stage.