Bradley’s US Return Highlights Portland Tournament

The former USMNT coach brings Stabaek to play Portland, Vancouver, Chicago
by Ray Marcham   |   Thursday, December 18, 2014

US Soccer Federation (USSF)

Bob Bradley is coming back to manage in the United States. At least for a few days.

As first reported by Chris Rifer on Monday and officially announced by the Portland Timbers on Wednesday, Bradley will be bringing his Stabaek side to the Rose City in late February to take part in the Timbers’ annual preseason tournament. Along with the Timbers, the Vancouver Whitecaps will be returning, while the Chicago Fire will be making their debut at the event (now called, thanks to sponsorship by a Portland online financial company, The Simple Invitational).

It will be a good test for each of the four clubs. The Timbers will debut new signings Adam Kwarasey, Nate Borchers, Dairon Asprilla and Jeanderson in front of the home crowd, while debuting a revamped defense. Vancouver will bring a side anxious to test themselves in a Cascadian atmosphere and new sides after a couple of weeks in Arizona (where they will also play the Timbers on February 3). Chicago will arrive in Portland after two weeks in England, where they will have friendlies against Norwich City and Queens Park Rangers, and will be playing against MLS competition for the first time in 2015.

But the focus will be on the Norwegian side and their famous manager. It will be the first time since 2006 that Bradley will manage against MLS clubs, going back to his single season with Chivas USA. It will also be the first games he has managed on American soil since being fired as coach of the US Men’s National Team in 2011.

Bradley will bring to Portland a club that finished ninth in their first season back in Norway’s top division, the Tippeligaen. The club also made the semifinals of the Norwegian Cup, their deepest run since making the final in 2008. They had a one-year relegation to the 1. Divisjon in 2013, being promoted by finishing second behind Bodø/Glimt. It hasn’t very long since Stabaek won their only Tippeligaen title, as they were champions in 2008. Of course, he is the first American to be the manager of a top division club in Europe.

The 2014 season was the first season Bradley had managed at club level since 2006, and most MLS fans likely have slim memories of the success he had in the league. Bradley was Bruce Arena’s assistant coach when DC United won the first two MLS Cup titles in 1996 and 1997. He was Chicago’s first coach, leading them to the MLS Cup and US Open Cup titles in their first season in 1998 and another USOC title in 2000. He also led the Fire to the 2000 MLS Cup Final, where they lost to Kansas City. In five seasons with Chicago, the Fire never missed the playoffs, winning division titles in 2000 and 2001.

In 2003, he left Chicago to take over the MetroStars, where he stayed until being fired late in the 2005 season. He then went to Chivas USA, leading them to their first playoff appearance in 2006 after finishing third in the Western Conference. Following the season, he was named interim coach of the US Men’s National Team and got the job on a permanent basis in 2007. The rest, indeed, is history, with his stints with the USMNT and in Egypt well chronicled.

Stabaek will be the second Scandinavian club to play in Portland’s preseason tournament, following Sweden’s AIK (who played in 2012 and 2013). They keep the tradition of the Timbers bringing in at least one foreign club to their preseason event, as Jamaica’s Portmore United played in the event in 2014.

One would assume that Kwarasey, Portland’s new goalkeeper, would be familiar with Stabaek, as he played with Strømsgodset. But he didn’t play in either of the two matches between Stabaek and Strømsgodset in 2014, and hasn’t played against “De Blaa” since 2012. But one player who knows Stabaek well is Chicago midfielder Michael Stephens, who played with the club in 2014 before signing with the Fire last week.

The schedule of the event has doubleheaders on February 22, 25 and 28. On the 22nd, Chicago plays Stabaek and Portland plays Vancouver. Then on the 25th, it’s the Whitecaps and Stabaek and Portland against Chicago. Then on the 28th, the Fire and Whitecaps play, followed by the Timbers and Stabaek. Portland plays the late match on each day.

Each of the four clubs will have different goals for The Simple Invitational. Portland, Vancouver and Chicago will all be looking to be getting their final lineups set before the MLS season starts in March (pending a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the MLS Players Union). Stabaek’s Tippeligaen season won’t start until April, so Bradley will likely use the tourney to experiment a little and start getting his team into playing shape.

Most of the focus on the tournament, at least outside of Portland, will be on Bradley. The American soccer media will arrive in the Rose City to see what he’s up to, what type of team he has and probably to see if he’d ever return to coach in the US. They will probably try real hard to get an opinion from Bradley about Jürgen Klinsmann and the USMNT, but Bradley likely won’t bite on those questions. After all, his focus is on his club and his players, and getting them better is why Stabaek is playing in Portland.

If nothing else, having Bob Bradley in town will bring a sense of excitement to what otherwise would be just another preseason tourney.

Ray MARCHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.
RAY'S SPONSORS