The Los Angeles Football Club began laying the foundation for its inaugural Major League Soccer season Thursday, hiring Bob Bradley, who formerly headed the U.S. national team, as its first coach.
Bradley, 59, who guided the U.S. to the knockout stage of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, returns to MLS after successful stints with the Egyptian national team and club teams in Norway and France. Last fall, he became the first American to coach an English Premier League club when he was hired by Swansea City, but lasted just 85 days, going 2-7-2.
"I'm honored to come back to MLS and be the first coach at LAFC," Bradley said by phone Thursday. "I've had a chance to get a feel for the people at LAFC, the vision, the momentum that they've built out of the gate before they even start to play. And so the opportunity to now build a team that has a real identity, that connects with the city and the diversity and the energy, these are football things that are exciting to me."
Bradley joins a franchise with an ambitious, well-funded ownership group and a blank slate on which to build when it enters MLS play next season. This is the second time Bradley has signed on to coach an expansion franchise and the first one went pretty well, as Bradley guided the Chicago Fire to MLS and U.S. Open Cup titles in the team's first season.
"The experience in Chicago was amazing, really," Bradley said. "I certainly understand that MLS has grown and changed. But that feeling of building a team and doing it in a way so that there's a real connection, that part doesn't ever leave you."
Bradley and John Thorrington, the club's executive vice president of soccer operations, both declined to say how long they've been discussing LAFC's open coaching job, though Thorrington said Bradley has been at the top of his list since Thorrington joined the club 18 months ago.
And now with a coach in place, Thorrington and Bradley will begin to try to build a roster.
"Conversations are continuing, we're fairly advanced in some of those," Thorrington said of player negotiations. "Things may change but we are pursuing targets very aggressively."
Thorrington, who made three starts with the national team under Bradley, has not named anyone his team has been pursuing but LAFC has been publicly linked to Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who would match well with the kind of game Bradley likes to play.
"Certainly the idea or the vision of being a team that's able to play at a good tempo, move the play quickly, create chances, win the ball back quickly. Those are things that certainly fit with how I see the game," Bradley said.
In his first stint in MLS, Bradley coached the MetroStars and Chivas USA before replacing Bruce Arena with the national team in 2006, capturing the CONCACAF Gold Cup a year later. In South Africa in 2010 he became the only U.S. coach to win his group in World Cup play.
His 43 wins with the national team trail only Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann, while his .612 winning percentage is second-best among coaches who worked at least five games.
"We couldn't be happier that we could get Bob. He's a very sought-after coach, not just here but all over the world," Thorrington said. "The fact that he will be our first coach says a lot about our intent and about the excitement he has for the job, which is also important.
"It was just the perfect fit and the right timing."
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9:35 p.m.: This article has been updated with details and quotes.