It seems Vancouver Whitecaps are making progress in their search for a new head coach. Former United States Men's National Team boss Bob Bradley now appears to be the lead contender for the position.
Since parting ways with Martin Rennie at the end of the 2013 regular season a number of candidates have been interviewed by Vancouver but it was thought they were waiting to speak with Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis who is out of contract at the Utah club at the end of this year.
Now though, it appears the man that tops their list is Bradley. The former U.S. National Team head coach reportedly interviewed with the 'Caps last weekend and is available for a new challenge after leaving his role with Egypt earlier this month following their failure to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Bradley would be a major catch for any MLS team. It's long been rumoured that he would be coaching in Canada next year, but Toronto rather than Vancouver looked the likely destination.
Bradley has a resume that makes him one of the most experienced men to have coached in the North American game. He was an MLS original as an assistant to Bruce Arena in the league's first season in 1996 and then won the MLS Cup and US Open Cup in his first MLS head coaching role with expansion club Chicago Fire in 1998. That season he was named MLS Coach of the Year. In 2003, the New Jersey native returned home for three years in charge of the New York/New Jersey Metrostars, and after a brief spell leading expansion side Chivas USA he was handed the top job with the United States.
Bradley's time as U.S. head coach got off to a successful start winning the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, setting the tone for a strong spell in charge of the national team. They performed well at the 2009 Confederations Cup, finishing as runner up, and then won their group at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa before losing in extra time to Ghana in the first match of the knockout stages.
After leaving his post with the U.S. in 2011, Bradley took on maybe the most challenging role of his career, attempting to lead Egypt to qualification for Brazil 2014. Although, ultimately unsuccessful in getting the Egyptians to the World Cup, the way Bradley galvanized the team and dealt with an incredibly difficult political situation gained him many admirers around the world.
He meets all the criteria set out by the Whitecaps at the start of their coaching search. President Bob Lenarduzzi said some big name candidates have been turned away because they have no experience in MLS - it's thought former Manchester City and England Under 21 boss Stuart Pearce expressed an interest in the position. With Bradley, they get the big name, international experience and a deep knowledge of the North American game. He won't come cheap, so it would be an appointment that would turn heads in MLS and prove to the rest of the league that the Whitecaps mean business.
Should talks with Bradley break down, the Whitecaps can either wait to see if Kreis becomes available or turn to current assistant coach Carl Robinson to fill the vacancy. I have an enormous amount of respect for Robinson and I am certain he has a big future ahead of him in the game as a head coach. If the Whitecaps give him the opportunity, he won't let them down. However, Bradley's experience in MLS and at international level would be a massive benefit to the Whitecaps organization.
Whoever takes the club forward will have a young squad to work with and also plenty of room under the salary cap for the new coach to put his own stamp on the team. The Whitecaps declined the contract options on eight players this week and there are still other big decisions to be made on key personnel. One such player is club captain Jay DeMerit who is currently out of contract. DeMerit was named to the United States World Cup squad by Bradley in 2010 so if the 55-year-old does take control it would almost certainly lead to a new deal for the defender.
These are interesting times in Vancouver. With the 2014 schedule being released there is now a date on the horizon that everyone is building towards. On Saturday, March 8 the 'Caps will kick off at BC Place against the 2013 Supporters Shield winners New York Red Bulls (live on TSN), but there is much work to be done before then. The Whitecaps have been patient in their search for a new coach, but the next couple of weeks should finally provide the answer as to who will be leading the club heading into its fourth season in Major League Soccer.